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Fear emotion reduces reported mitigation behavior in adolescents subject to climate change education


Emotion has been recognized as a significant factor affecting climate engagement behavior. However, empirical experiments testing emotions influencing behavioral changes, climate change education (CCE) in particular, are rare. In this study, we conducted a 2-week CCE program with the support of video clips to induce emotions such as fear and/or hope through the manipulated treatments and were then compared between emotion plus lecture group and lecture-only group for adolescents to explore how emotions affect self-reported mitigation behavior toward climate change. The study involved 1730 students from nine middle schools in three coastal cities (Xiamen, Shenzhen, and Ningbo) in China. The results demonstrated that emotional video clips were the successful stimulus for target emotions. There was a significant improvement in both knowledge-gaining and self-reported mitigation behavior in the lecture-only group, and climate change concern and involvement mediated the effect on mitigation behavior. Compared to the lecture-only group, the hope treatment group showed decreased knowledge gain but no significant effect on self-reported mitigation behavior. In contrast, emotion significantly reduced students’ self-reported mitigation behavior in the fear treatment group, which was mostly pinpointed to the behavioral change of emission reduction activities. Thus, the study highlighted the importance of knowledge with appropriate emotions in adolescents to safeguard educational outcomes.

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The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The authors acknowledge all the teachers and students for implementing the program, Xiamen Botanical Garden, Shenzhen Mangrove Wetlands Conservation Foundation, Shenzhen Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, Ningbo Botanical Garden, all nine schools for providing help, Sifan Hu for constructive comments for revising the manuscript, and Mahindran Valliyappan for help with language editing.


This research was funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences 135 Program (XTBG-F04).

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The first author contributed to the conception and design of the study, acquisition of data, analysis of data, and writing of the manuscript.

The corresponding author contributed to the study’s design, manuscript revising, important intellectual content, and final approval of the version to be submitted.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jin Chen.

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Research involving human and animal rights

This study involved human participants. All procedures performed in studies involving humans were performed according to the institution’s ethical standards at which the studies were conducted, and ethical approval was obtained from the Expert Committee on Biomedical Ethics, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Science. The reference number for ethical approval is XTBG2019-002.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Wang, X., Chen, J. Fear emotion reduces reported mitigation behavior in adolescents subject to climate change education. Climatic Change 174, 1 (2022).

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  • Climate change mitigation behavior
  • Climate change education
  • Emotion
  • Knowledge
  • Adolescent