‘When the Sun Gets Very Hot’: Young Children’s Perceptions of Climate Change

Climate change is arguably one of the most serious threats the global community is currently facing, threatening the health and well-being of current and future generations of children. While young children will experience the impacts of climate change for longer, research into their perceptions of climate change is scant. Children are vulnerable to the diverse impacts of climate change, including increased poverty, food scarcity, extreme weather events and an increase in infectious diseases as a result of increased temperatures, undermining their future (Leffers, 2022; Romanello et al., 2021; UNICEF, 2021). Therefore, climate change is not only an environmental issue (Chesney & Duderstadt, 2022; UNICEF, 2021) but also a children’s rights issue.

In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on the importance of introducing environmental education early. Indeed, education plays a crucial role in improving environmental literacy (Leffers, 2022). Within this context, it is likely that the introduction of climate change education in early childhood education (ECEC) will provide young children with the knowledge, skills and values that they need to take responsible action towards mitigating, or adapting to, the climate crisis, now and in the future. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) highlights a significant development in this field as it stresses the importance of education in helping young learners in acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to promote long-term sustainability. Achieving these goals/targets means that schools are committed to improving ‘education, awareness-raising and human institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning’.

This study explores young children’s (mis)understanding of climate change in Malta, a small island in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. The findings signal that climate change education in ECEC is lagging behind and call for new ways of making it both meaningful and relevant to young children. In this regard, this article argues for the need for climate change education in ECEC so that young children learn to examine ideas around the scientific concepts underlying climate change and learn to discuss whether specific actions may lead to change or not.

Finally, this study offers research and pedagogical implications, noting the need for educators, researchers and policymakers to consider the educational frameworks that help successfully shape climate change learning in early childhood.


  1. This blog post provides valuable insights into the Journal of Education for Sustainable Development and its commitment to promoting sustainable development through education. The journal's focus on interdisciplinary research and practical applications is commendable, and its open-access policy ensures that the knowledge shared is accessible to all. I appreciate the emphasis on the importance of education in addressing global challenges and fostering a more sustainable future.
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