Recent studies reveal that young people are experiencing a range of emotions relating to climate change, including anxiety, anger and a sense of powerlessness. Young people have also voiced distrust in governments for failing to adequately address climate change, which they see as a critical threat to their future. However, there is limited research considering the interplay between young people’s emotions about climate change and the broader social context in which they live; social-ecological theory can assist in identifying important systemic factors influencing emotional responses to climate change. In this qualitative research project, I drew upon a social-ecological theoretical framework to explore the affective dimensions of climate change as experienced by young Australians aged 18–24 (N = 14). A primary, overarching finding was of climate change as a multidimensional emotional challenge for young people, with four sub-themes that describe key experiences through which it manifests: a fragmented climate education; disillusionment with politics, but hope for change; reckoning with uncertain futures; and grappling with agency. The findings contribute to the growing literature on climate-related emotions, highlighting experiences of interrelated emotions that resist being reduced to one label (e.g., ‘eco-anxiety’). Accordingly, I discuss a ‘greenhouse affect’ to convey the affective quandary provoked by climate change, expanding upon established anxiety-centred concepts. I also discuss implications for educating young Australians about climate change, and how this might improve their sense of agency to meaningfully contribute to climate solutions.

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