Academic Publication

‘Will polar bears melt?’ A qualitative analysis of children’s questions about climate change

Author:
Katherine Lee, Julie Barnett
Source:
SAGE
Contributor:
Publication Year:
2020
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

‘Will polar bears melt?’ A qualitative analysis of children’s questions about climate change

Abstract

Climate change poses a grave threat to future generations, yet relatively little research examines children’s understandings of the issue. This study examines the questions children ask about climate change – rather than their answers to adults’ questions – exploring whether their questions suggest they view climate change as psychologically proximal or distant. Children aged 10–12 from 14 UK schools took part in an online event, asking scientists questions in a ‘climate zone’. The questions were analysed using thematic analysis. The themes related to the nature and reality of climate change, its causes, impacts, and solutions. Participants seemed most exercised about the future impacts of and ways of ameliorating climate change, with some questions evoking science-fiction disaster imagery. The contents of participants’ questions elucidated the ways in which they position climate change as both a proximal and distant phenomenon.

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