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22 December 2021

Animal loss caused by climate change motivates children to turn off the light

Today’s children will have to deal with the consequences of climate change tomorrow. It is crucial to gain insight into children’s motivations to behave in environmentally conscious ways. A study in Environmental Communication examines how to motivate children to become environmentally conscious. Children feel more sorry and guilty after watching a message on animal loss than on landscape loss, which relates to environmentally conscious behavior.

Take aways

  • The most effective way of stimulating children to engage in pro-environmental behavior is by showing them videos about animal loss due to climate change, while making it clear that children can do something about it. 
  • Educational programs and campaigns may want to make children aware that their actions impact climate change and cause the extinction of animals.

Study information

  • Who?

    248 children from 9 to 12 years old (mean age= 10.09, 53% girls)

  • Where?


  • How?

    The children watched a video on climate change, focusing either on the loss of animals or the loss of landscapes. Additionally, the videos discussed the responsibility of climate change, either pointing toward to the young viewers (internal) or to the industry (external). After watching the video, all children answered questions about how sorry they felt for animals and landscapes (for example, “I feel sorry for the animals that will become extinct/the plants that will disappear”), their feelings of guilt for climate change, and their intention to behave in an environmentally conscious manner (for example, “I will turn off the lights every time I leave a room”).

Facts and findings

  • The children who watched the video on animal loss felt sorrier for the victims of climate change than the children who watched the video on landscape loss.  
  • Children who felt sorry for the animal loss had stronger feelings of guilt about climate change and, in turn, indicated more often that they planned to engage in environmentally conscious behaviors. 
  • When the responsibility of the loss was attributed to the industry, children showed less intent to behave consciously and more intent to avoid climate messages.  
  • This difference was stronger for animal loss video than the landscape loss video. An explanation is that children feel more sorry and guilty after watching animal loss videos, but because the loss is caused by the industry they think that their own action will not have a lot of impact. They rather avoid the video to reduce the negative feelings.