Among Young People: Climate Change Understanding is Real, and Growing

April 16, 2018

In Florida, Kids are ignoring the ban on the words “climate change”.

Inside Climate News:

Eight young Floridians, ages 10 to 19, sued their state and its climate-policy-averse governor on Monday for failing to protect residents from the impacts of a warming climate.

They say they already see signs of climate change around them—from powerful hurricanes to extreme heat waves to tidal flooding that now regularly washes into coastal roads and parks as sea level rises—and they want the state to do something about it.

The lawsuit filed Monday is the latest in a wave of legal cases filed by children against states and the federal government that accuse government of depriving them of the fundamental right to a stable climate.

The Florida plaintiffs accuse the state of violating their constitutional rights by “perpetuating an energy system that is based on fossil fuels.”

“The plaintiffs are asking the state of Florida to adhere to its legal and moral obligation to protect current and future generations from the intensifying impacts of climate change,” the group said in a statement.

Their lawsuit asks that state officials “prepare and implement an enforceable comprehensive” plan to phase out fossil fuel use and “draw down excess atmospheric CO2 through forest and soil protection so as to stabilize the climate system.”


Around nine in 10 millennials understand that the climate is changing, the highest proportion of any age group, while nearly eight in 10 think humankind must work to stem the rise in temperature. That includes a majority of Republicans. Most young Republicans recognize that humans are altering the climate and want the government to tackle the problem.

According to one poll, Republican millennials trust the Democratic Party more than the GOP when it comes climate change, which should alarm party leadership. It is notable that young Republicans are willing to break from conservative elites on this issue, and it speaks to the fact that climate change has more salience for young Americans than it does for their parents or grandparents.

“Millennials may be more likely to accept that climate change is occurring because they’re part of a generation hearing and learning about it in school. There have also been increasing extreme weather events happening around the country and globally in recent years — floods, droughts and hurricanes — that have been making headlines,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, former director of the University of Texas Energy Poll. “And of course, we have more and more data from scientists themselves documenting what’s taking place. In polling, we cannot say what exactly influences changing public attitudes, but I suspect it’s a combination of many of these.”

Young Americans are deeply skeptical of the oil and gas industry, teenagers in particular, according to a recent survey. Around half of Americans aged 16 to 18 believe the oil and gas industry doesn’t want what’s best for them. Most say that wind and solar are the fuel of their generation, while oil and gas are the fuel of their parents’ generation, and coal is the fuel of their grandparents’ generation.

That survey also found that just one in four Americans aged 16 to 19 find careers in the oil and gas industry appealing. Few believe that jobs in the oil and gas sector will confer prestige, provide long-term financial stability, or allow workers to have a positive impact on the world — and this has executives worried.

Not only do young people get climate change, their elders support teaching children about the subject.


Yale Program on Climate Change Communications:

Americans overwhelmingly support teaching our children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming – in all 50 states and 3,000+ counties across the nation, including Republican and Democratic strongholds. Despite this strong public support for climate education, there have been recent debates in several states about whether to include climate change in science education standards. These debates, fed by campaigns like the libertarian Heartland Institute’s recent mailing of lesson plans dismissing the scientific consensus that global warming is happening to teachers across the nation, indicate that classrooms are the latest battleground over climate change science.

Question text: “Should schools teach our children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming?” Map shows combined responses of “Somewhat agree” and “Strongly agree” based on the statistical model described in Howe et al., 2015. Total sample (n=6001) includes data from January 2010 (n=1001); March 2016 (n=1204); November 2016 (n=1226); June 2017 (n=1266); and October 2017 (n=1304).

The most recent effort to remove passages about human-caused climate change from science standards came to a head in Idaho. Several Idaho legislators argued that students should not be taught that climate change is human-caused, but instead be given opposing arguments and allowed to decide for themselves. In response, teachers and citizens argued that failing to teach children the scientific facts about climate change would rob them of important information crucial not only to their scientific education, but also their future. After several years of debate, the state legislature finally approved science standards that include sections on human-caused climate change.

The fact that climate change is happening and human-caused is not a matter of scientific debate: many studies have examined climate scientists’ conclusions about global warming and have found scientific agreement similar to the level of consensus that smoking causes cancer (i.e., above 95%).

Idaho is not the only state that has recently debated its climate science standards. At least nine other states have debated their own education standards, many of which were motivated by efforts to exclude the teaching of climate change science. As depicted in the map below, however, a large majority of citizens supports climate change education in each of these states.


One Response to “Among Young People: Climate Change Understanding is Real, and Growing”

  1. This article is a joke right? A ten year old sees climate change all around them? I guess in their few years of recallable memory, the climate has changed so much that is obvious to a 10 year old?

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