Exploring the youths’ awareness and knowledge of climate change: an analysis of early first-year students’ perceptions of climate change within a South African university

Nongqayi, Lungile
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The effects of climate change are already discernible however this is predicted to be more prevalent in the future years and so will impact the younger generations to a greater extent. The prevailing question however is whether the South African youth are equipped with knowledge and are awareof this potential threat; this would then give an indication of their potential to devise future mitigation measures. Thus the aim of this study was to investigate the level of awareness and knowledge of climate change held by our future leaders, i.e. the youth of South Africa. The study utilised a qualitative approach and a descriptive design and convenience sampling. This study was conducted via online survey and all 700 Introductory Life Sciences (ILS)s tudents werei nvited into the study and 29 responses were received. Thematic analysis was utilised and responses were coded and analysed to determine the patterns and themes emerging from data. This study found significant student understanding regarding the causes of climate change. Respondents were observed to have experience nature at varying degrees through the schooling curriculum and life experiences. They were also able to describe, explain and understand environmental concepts; allowing them to develop environmental attitudes leading to possible behavioural outputssuch as conceptualisation of impact mitigation measures. This indicates the significance of incorporating climate change education within the high school curriculum. This observation should thus encourage a similar conception within the University context with climate change education incorporated within all disciplinesand not confined to natural sciences syllabus; thus ensuring that all students will be better equipped for climate change impact mitigation across varied career paths.
A research report submitted to the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Science, 2022