A team of researchers from NUI Galway are among a consortium which has won a competitive international research funding award of €1.38 million under the JPI Climate SOLSTICE initiative to explore how young people across Europe experience the climate crisis.
Commencing this month, the project will involve research teams from the UK, Ireland, Finland, and Italy.
The researchers will work with young people, teachers, educational institutions, and youth groups on the project, to understand how youth experience and make sense of climate complexity. The research team from NUI Galway will draw on the vast interdisciplinary experience of the project team comprising Dr Gary Goggins, Professor Frances Fahy, and Dr Kathy Reilly from the university's Discipline of Geography.
Climate change is an existential threat that must be addressed through concerted action involving all of society. Recently, young people have put themselves at the forefront of these efforts through coordinated activities, such as school strikes, in a call for greater attention and decisive action from governments and other powerful actors to mitigate climate change and protect people from its harmful effects.
At the same time, there is emerging consensus that lack of effective climate leadership, combined with institutional inertia and confused governance mechanisms, is resulting in widespread climate indifference or extremism. Increasing awareness of the impacts and effects of climate change, as well as the measures that can be taken to mitigate against it, is crucial in building an empowered and resilient climate-literate youth that can develop and support solutions now and in the future.
Young people of the future
“It is vital that we listen to young people and include their voices in our ongoing efforts to tackle climate change," said Dr Gary Goggins, who leads the research team in the School of Geography at NUI Galway. "Young people are the future, but they are also important in the present. Understanding how young people experience this rapidly changing world, and their place in it, is central to developing effective solutions to the common challenges we face.”
The research will co-create a framework that enables young people to express how growing up in their particular contexts and spaces (including formal education, relationships, communities, and extracurricular spaces ) plays a role in their worldview formation and openness to new ways of thinking and doing.
This framework will support the development of practical tools for teaching and learning in participating schools and beyond.
Policy recommendations will consider social, political, cultural, and economic contexts in each region under study, and local, national, and international recommendations will be put forward.
Dr Jonathan Derham of the EPA said: “The Environmental Protection Agency welcomes the success of NUI Galway in a very competitive pan-European research call. This reflects the importance of this research area and the excellence of the university team. The huge success of the 2019 Youth Assembly on Climate and the resulting media engagement demonstrated the need for more productive and enduring dialogue with young people in relation to concerns and solutions. It is expected that this research will assist in supporting delivery of these ambitions.”
The project is funded by the JPI Climate SOLSTICE initiative for three years (2020 to 2023 ) with a total project budget of €1.38 million. The funding organization for Ireland is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ), which will provide €148,450 towards the overall budget.