Young People and Climate Change: The Role of Developmental Science

  • Ann V. SansonEmail author
  • Theodore D. Wachs
  • Silvia H. Koller
  • Katariina Salmela-Aro
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 74)


Addressing climate change is the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), where it is described as the single biggest threat to development, and since it will disrupt the basic necessities for human health and well-being - food, water, clean air, and a safe place to live – it will impact on almost all the other SDGs. This chapter summarizes the climate science which indicates that we must eliminate man-made emissions of greenhouse gases almost entirely by mid-century. The most severe impacts of climate change will be felt by children in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), and include threats to physical, psychological and social well-being. Evidence from developmental science, using a bioecological systems framework, is presented to show how a changing climate will increase children’s exposure to cumulative risk factors while reducing their exposure to protective/promotive influences, resulting in a range of negative developmental effects. This is followed by a discussion of the role of developmental science in helping children and youth to manage their negative emotions surrounding climate change and develop the skills and attributes which will help mitigate climate change, working towards achieving not only SDG 13 but a number of other SDGs. Developmental science also offers models and interventions which can be used to support children and youth to be resilient to the challenges of climate change, and to contribute effectively to solutions to mitigate it, buffer its effects and adapt to it. The chapter concludes by arguing that developmental scientists can take on a range of important roles in addressing climate change in order to protect the well-being of future generations.


Climate change Children Youth Sustainable development goals Developmental science Risk and protection Climate mitigation Climate adaptation Bioecological model Positive development 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann V. Sanson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Theodore D. Wachs
    • 2
  • Silvia H. Koller
    • 3
    • 4
  • Katariina Salmela-Aro
    • 5
  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  4. 4.North-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa
  5. 5.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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