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Developing a model of climate change behavior among adolescents


  • Kathryn T. Stevenson

    () (North Carolina State University)

  • M. Nils Peterson

    (North Carolina State University)

  • Howard D. Bondell

    (North Carolina State University)


Research on adolescent climate change perceptions has uncovered key insights about how knowledge, concern, and hope might relate to behavior and the potential for educational interventions to influence these factors. However, few of these studies have employed treatment/control designs that might address causality and none have addressed how these factors might interact to influence behavior. We developed a model of behavior change where a climate education treatment impacted knowledge, knowledge impacted hope and concern, and hope and concern together impacted behavior. We empirically tested the utility of this model and the causal relationships within it using a pre/post, treatment/control evaluation of climate education among adolescents in North Carolina, USA (n = 1041). We found support for a causal relationship between the treatment and gains in knowledge, but not between treatment and behavior. However, we did find support for a path model in which climate change knowledge positively relates to increased climate change concern and hope, and increases in concern and hope predict changes in pro-environmental behavior. Low SES was related to smaller gains in knowledge, concern, and behavior. Our results contribute to a theoretical understanding of climate change behaviors among adolescents and suggest that climate education aiming to change behavior should focus on building hope and concern.

Suggested Citation

  • Kathryn T. Stevenson & M. Nils Peterson & Howard D. Bondell, 2018. "Developing a model of climate change behavior among adolescents," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 151(3), pages 589-603, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:151:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10584-018-2313-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-018-2313-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dan M. Kahan & Hank Jenkins-Smith & Donald Braman, 2011. "Cultural cognition of scientific consensus," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 147-174, February.
    2. Jing Shi & Vivianne H. M. Visschers & Michael Siegrist, 2015. "Public Perception of Climate Change: The Importance of Knowledge and Cultural Worldviews," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 35(12), pages 2183-2201, December.
    3. John Sterman, 2011. "Communicating climate change risks in a skeptical world," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 108(4), pages 811-826, October.
    4. Kathryn Stevenson & Nils Peterson, 2015. "Motivating Action through Fostering Climate Change Hope and Concern and Avoiding Despair among Adolescents," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(1), pages 1-10, December.
    5. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2015:i:1:p:0-0:d:61120 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Lawrence Hamilton, 2011. "Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effects," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 104(2), pages 231-242, January.
    7. Kathryn Stevenson & Nils Peterson, 2015. "Motivating Action through Fostering Climate Change Hope and Concern and Avoiding Despair among Adolescents," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(1), pages 1-10, December.
    8. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2015:i:1:p:6:d:61120 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. June Flora & Melissa Saphir & Matt Lappé & Connie Roser-Renouf & Edward Maibach & Anthony Leiserowitz, 2014. "Evaluation of a national high school entertainment education program: The Alliance for Climate Education," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 419-434, December.
    10. Teresa Myers & Matthew Nisbet & Edward Maibach & Anthony Leiserowitz, 2012. "A public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 113(3), pages 1105-1112, August.
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