Adolescents and the Climate Crisis: Considering Youth Rights, Collective Action, and the Role of Developmental Science

Laura Wray-Lake, PhD, Chair

Professor of Social Welfare
Luskin School of Public Affairs
University of California, Los Angeles
[email protected]

About: Dr. Laura Wray-Lake is Professor of Social Welfare at UCLA. Her research examines the development of civic engagement in adolescence and young adulthood and factors that enhance youth civic engagement. She has written over 80 research articles and chapters, a monograph (Wray-Lake & Abrams, 2020), and a new book entitled Young Black Changemakers and the Road to Racial Justice. Her research demonstrates that adolescents and young adults hold abundant potential to act as positive change agents and address society’s problems on local, national, and global scales. She has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation, Templeton Foundation, Spencer Foundation, and AmeriCorps. She serves as Associate Editor of the Journal for Research on Adolescence.

Nikki Barry, PhD, Moderator
Assistant Professor of Environmental Justice Education
School of Education and Information Studies
University of California, Los Angeles 
[email protected]

About: Dr. Nikki Barry is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Justice Education in the Department of Education at UCLA. She is a citizen of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho and is also of Paiute and Irish descent. Her work utilizes community-based design research to co-design learning environments that support Indigenous sovereignty and address issues of environmental justice. She also conducts psychological research about the cognition of human reasoning and decision-making regarding environmental issues and applies the findings to the design of learning environments that support learners to imagine and build sustainable and just climate futures. Nikki earned her PhD in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University, her MA in Teaching from Pacific University, and her BS in Sociology from Northeastern University. She is also a parent of three young children and a former middle and high school teacher. 

The Climate Crisis’s Effect on Children’s Fundamental Rights to Health, Safety and Dignity

Nate Bellinger​, JD
Senior Staff Attorney, Our Children’s Trust
[email protected]
always CC [email protected] (Laura Gehrke, Events Manager)

About: Brave young people across the United States and around the globe are seeking to secure their fundamental rights to a life-sustaining climate by challenging their government’s actions that cause and contribute to the climate crisis. Our Children’s Trust works to protect the Earth’s climate system for present and future generations by supporting and representing young people in global legal efforts to secure their binding and enforceable legal rights to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate, based on the best available science. Senior Staff Attorney Nate Bellinger will share why Our Children’s Trust works specifically with children, how they work with experts to demonstrate the impact of climate change on young people, and what people can do today to support youth-led constitutional climate lawsuits.

Nate Bellinger earned a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts before moving to Oregon. After spending three years working as a firefighter, ski instructor, and rafting guide, Nate returned to school and earned a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Oregon. His thesis documented the social and environmental impacts of Ecuador’s commercial tuna fishing industry. Nate then decided to pursue a law degree to develop an additional skill set to fight for solutions to the multitude of injustices in the world, and in 2014, graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law. As a Senior Staff Attorney at Our Children’s Trust, Nate works to protect the constitutional rights of youth to a stable climate system and advocates for science-based solutions to the climate crisis. Nate’s scholarship has been published in the ABA magazine, Natural Resources & Environment, and the Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy. When not at work, you can find Nate working in his garden, running in the woods, or exploring the Pacific Northwest’s magnificent lakes and forests with his family.

Supporting Youth in the Time of Climate Crisis 

Ann Sanson, PhD

Honorary Professorial Fellow 
University of Melbourne 
annvs@[email protected]u

About: The climate crisis is having devastating impacts that require urgent action. Young people are experiencing climate disasters in ways that are harming their health and wellbeing. Dr. Ann Sanson will discuss the ways that adults can support young people in managing climate anxiety and building agency to take action, as well as the developmental benefits to young people who are taking climate action. Finally, Dr. Sanson will consider the role of researchers working with adolescents in this unprecedented context and will introduce the work of Developmental Scientists for Climate Action (DevSCA), a collective concerned with the impacts of climate change on human development. 

Bio: Ann’s research career principally focused on social and emotional development from infancy to adulthood, particularly through large-scale longitudinal studies. Among the research topics she has covered are youth mental health difficulties, wellbeing and positive development. Over the last decade, her work shifted towards seeking to understand the impacts of climate change on young people, how they are responding to awareness of the threat it poses to their future lives, and how they can best be supported to thrive and cope effectively with the crisis. Ann has over 200 publications, and is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development. In 2022, she co-founded Developmental Scientists for Climate Action ( to encourage research, networking and advocacy on climate change by developmental scientists. Her latest book is entitled Children and Climate Change