While most children and young people have heard of climate change, only half of them understand what it is, a new poll shows.
On average, 85 percent of young people aged 15-24 surveyed in 55 countries said they have heard of climate change, yet only 50 percent chose the correct definition, according to a poll by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Gallup, whose results were released on Thursday.
The young people were asked to select between "seasonal changes in weather that occur every year" and "more extreme weather events and a rise in average world temperatures resulting from human activity" to gauge their knowledge of climate change.
The "more extreme changes" response was the correct answer as defined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The poll was released as world leaders are gathering in Dubai for this year's UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).
"Young people have been some of the biggest heroes in driving action to address the impact of climate change," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell in a press release. "They have been calling for climate action on the streets or in meeting rooms, and we need to do even more to ensure that all children and young people understand the crisis that hangs over their future."
She said that at COP28, leaders must commit to ensuring children and young people are educated on the problem, considered in discussions, and engaged in decisions that will shape their lives for decades to come.
Knowledge among young people was found to be lowest in lower-middle- and low-income countries, those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as Pakistan (19 percent), Sierra Leone (26 percent) and Bangladesh (37 percent), said UNICEF.
The fund's Children's Climate Risk Index, published in 2021, said children in all three countries are classified as at extremely high risk of the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, threatening their health, education, and protection and exposing them to deadly diseases.