Global Youth Activism on Climate Change


  • Inez Cloughton Recent social work graduate


This literature review explores the recent exponential growth of a global youth movement that is focused on addressing climate change. It examines some of the casual factors for the growth, and through a critical lens examines some of the ageist and paternalistic responses the movement incites. Feelings of hope and connection to other groups, movements and organisations around the world were some of the positive impacts identified. It was found that the movement has diverted focus to the structural and systemic causes of climate change. The review concludes by outlining the role and responsibility social workers have in addressing this social justice issue and the ways in which they can work in solidarity with and support youth activists. A key role identified was advocacy, with a focus on advocating for children and young people’s right to participation and involvement in formal discussions and decision-making regarding this issue. 

Author Biography

Inez Cloughton, Recent social work graduate

Recent social work graduate from the University of Sydney


AASW. (2019). AASW’s Policy Position on Climate Change. Retrieved 1 July 2020, from

Albright, J., Hurd, N., & Hussain, S. (2017). Applying a Social Justice Lens to Youth Mentoring: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Practice. American Journal Of Community Psychology, 59(3-4), 363-381. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12143

AYCC. (2020). About the AYCC. Retrieved 11 July 2020, from

Bergmann, Z., & Ossewaarde, R. (2020). Youth climate activists meet environmental governance: ageist depictions of the FFF movement and Greta Thunberg in German newspaper coverage. Journal Of Multicultural Discourses, 1-24. doi: 10.1080/17447143.2020.1745211

Boulianne, S., Lalancette, M., & Ilkiw, D. (2020). “School Strike 4 Climate”: Social Media and the International Youth Protest on Climate Change. Media And Communication, 8(2), 208. doi: 10.17645/mac.v8i2.2768

Buttigieg, K., & Pace, P. (2013). Positive Youth Action Towards Climate Change. Journal Of Teacher Education For Sustainability, 15(1), 15-47. doi: 10.2478/jtes-2013-0002

Chersich, M., Scorgie, F., Wright, C., Mullick, S., Mathee, A., & Hess, J. et al. (2019). Climate change and adolescents in South Africa: The role of youth activism and the health sector in safeguarding adolescents’ health and education. South African Medical Journal, 109(9), 615. doi: 10.7196/samj.2019.v109i9.14327

Cutter-Mackenzie, A., & Rousell, D. (2019). Education for what? Shaping the field of climate change education with children and young people as co-researchers. Children's Geographies, 17(1), 90-104. doi: 10.1080/14733285.2018.1467556

Dominelli, L. (2013). Environmental justice at the heart of social work practice: Greening the profession. International Journal Of Social Welfare, 22(4), 431-439. doi: 10.1111/ijsw.12024

Earl, J., Maher, T., & Elliott, T. (2016). Youth, activism, and social movements. Sociology Compass, 11(4), e12465. doi: 10.1111/soc4.12465

FridaysForFuture. (2020). Fridays For Future - Who we are. Retrieved 1 July 2020, from

Graham, H., Bland, J., Cookson, R., Kanaan, M., & White, P. (2017). Do People Favour Policies that Protect Future Generations? Evidence from a British Survey of Adults. Journal Of Social Policy, 46(3), 423-445. doi: 10.1017/s0047279416000945

Grauer, S. (2016). Climate change: The thief of childhood. Phi Delta Kappan, 101(7), 42-46. doi: 10.1177/0031721720917541

Gray, M., Coates, J., & Hetherington, T. (2012). Environmental Social Work(1st ed.). Canberra: Taylor and Francis Group.

Greenleft. (2019). Unions join students’ call to strike for real climate action, p. 6.

Han, H., & Ahn, S. (2020). Youth Mobilization to Stop Global Climate Change: Narratives and Impact. Sustainability, 12(10), 4127. doi: 10.3390/su12104127

Harris, A., Wyn, J., & Younes, S. (2010). Beyond apathetic or activist youth. Young, 18(1), 9-32. doi: 10.1177/110330880901800103

Henson, R. (2011). The rough guide to climate change (3rd ed.). London: Penguin Group.

IFSW. (2020). Climate Justice Program. Retrieved 13 July 2020, from

Jung, J., Petkanic, P., Nan, D., & Kim, J. (2020). When a Girl Awakened the World: A User and Social Message Analysis of Greta Thunberg. Sustainability, 12(7), 2707. doi: 10.3390/su12072707

Majeed, H., & Lee, J. (2017). The impact of climate change on youth depression and mental health. The Lancet Planetary Health, 1(3), e94-e95. doi: 10.1016/s2542-5196(17)30045-1

Moore, S., Gegieckas, T., Luisa, Marval., McCauley, Hailey., & Peloquin, S. (2011). CONSTRUCTING CRITICAL CITIZENSHIP WITH YOUNG PEOPLE: ALTERNATIVE PEDAGOGIES. International Journal Of Child, Youth And Family Studies, 2(3/4), 494. doi: 10.18357/ijcyfs23/420117764

Nesmith, A., & Smyth, N. (2015). Environmental Justice and Social Work Education: Social Workers' Professional Perspectives. Social Work Education, 34(5), 484-501. doi: 10.1080/02615479.2015.1063600

O'Brien, K., Selboe, E., & Hayward, B. (2018). Exploring youth activism on climate change: dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Ecology And Society, 23(3). doi: 10.5751/es-10287-230342

Ojala, M. (2018). Eco-anxiety. RSA Journal, 164(4).

Peeters, J. (2012). A comment on ‘Climate change: Social workers’ roles and contributions to policy debates and interventions'. International Journal Of Social Welfare, 21(1), 105-107. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2397.2011.00847.x

Plan International Australia. (2015). Children, Young People and Climate Change. Canberra: Plan International Australia.

Renton, Z., & Butcher, J. (2010). Securing a Sustainable Future for Children and Young People. Children & Society, 24(2), 160-166. doi: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2009.00280.x

Rousell, D., & Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A. (2020). A systematic review of climate change education: giving children and young people a ‘voice’ and a ‘hand’ in redressing climate change. Children's Geographies, 18(2), 191-208. doi: 10.1080/14733285.2019.1614532

Scannell, L., Cox, R., Fletcher, S., & Heykoop, C. (2016). “That was the Last Time I Saw my House”: The Importance of Place Attachment among Children and Youth in Disaster Contexts. American Journal Of Community Psychology, 58(1-2), 158-173. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12069

Schusler, T., Krings, A., & Hernández, M. (2019). Integrating youth participation and ecosocial work: New possibilities to advance environmental and social justice. Journal Of Community Practice, 27(3-4), 460-475. doi: 10.1080/10705422.2019.1657537

Seitz, R., & Krutka, D. (2020). Can the Green New Deal Save Us? An Interdisciplinary Inquiry. The Social Studies, 111(2), 74-85. doi: 10.1080/00377996.2019.1677547

Stevenson, K., & Peterson, N. (2015). Motivating Action through Fostering Climate Change Hope and Concern and Avoiding Despair among Adolescents. Sustainability, 8(1), 6. doi: 10.3390/su8010006

Tinkler, J., & Bousfield, K. (2019). Disengaged or disillusioned?. Ethos, 27(2), 20-23.

UN. (2019). UN Climate Change Summit 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2020, from

UNb. (2019). UN Climate Change Summit 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2020, from

UNc. (2019). #YouthStats: Environment and Climate Change. Retrieved 14 July 2020, from

UNICEF. (2020). Youth for climate action. Retrieved 9 July 2020, from

UNICEFa. (2020). Environment and climate change. Retrieved 13 July 2020, from






Student edition 2021