Survey: Climate Weighs on Young People

September 14, 2021


A new global survey illustrates the depth of anxiety many young people are feeling about climate change.

Nearly 60% of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried. 

More than 45% of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.

Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56%) say they think humanity is doomed.

Two-thirds reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious. Many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame – as well as hope. 

One 16-year-old said: “It’s different for young people – for us, the destruction of the planet is personal.”

The survey across 10 countries was led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities. It’s funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz. It claims to be the biggest of its kind, with responses from 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25. 

Many of those questioned perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, and that governments are failing to respond adequately. 

Many feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.

The authors say the young are confused by governments’ failure to act. They say environmental fears are “profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people”.

Chronic stress over climate change, they maintain, is increasing the risk of mental and physical problems. And if severe weather events worsen, mental health impacts will follow.

The report says young people are especially affected by climate fears because they are developing psychologically, socially and physically.

The lead author, Caroline Hickman from Bath University, told BBC News: “This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.

“We’re not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children.

“Governments need to listen to the science and not pathologise young people who feel anxious.” 

The authors of the report, to be published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, say levels of anxiety appear to be greatest in nations where government climate policies are considered weakest. 

There was most concern in the global south. The most worried rich nation was Portugal, which has seen repeated wildfires.

Tom Burke from the think tank e3g told BBC News: “It’s rational for young people to be anxious. They’re not just reading about climate change in the media – they’re watching it unfold in front of their own eyes.”

The authors believe the failure of governments on climate change may be defined as cruelty under human rights legislation. Six young people are already taking the Portuguese government to court to argue this case.

The survey was carried out by the data analytics firm Kantar in the UK, Finland, France, the US, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, India, the Philippines and Nigeria. It’s under peer review on open access.

Young people were asked their views on the following statements: 

  • People have failed to care for the planet: 83% agreed globally, UK 80%
  • The future is frightening: 75%, UK 72%
  • Governments are failing young people: 65%, UK 65%
  • Governments can be trusted: 31%, UK 28%

The researchers said they were moved by the scale of distress. One young person said: “I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t care for children and animals.”


4 Responses to “Survey: Climate Weighs on Young People”

  1. Frank Price Says:

    Here’s a song by a young Brit that exemplifies what many are feeling:

  2. redskylite Says:

    Wise advise from The Australian Medical Association (AMA), the peak professional body for doctors in Australia.

    “Not just the health impacts but also economic devastation, countries disappearing, coastlines changing forever, severe weather events that will impact on our children’s lives and this is all avoidable or at least reducible by action now.”

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    So, The video (a good one) is designed to relieve anxieties about methane bombs among young people?

    Good luck—-it hasn’t much relieved the anxiety of this 81-year-old. I am not as convinced as these experts that it lies that far into the future—the bomb’s possible much earlier arrival and the demise of the AMOC are still high on my worry list.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    On non-science forums, I’ve had to go in to make the distinction between “alarmism” of the disaster movie big scary clathrate bomb and the more pedestrian ongoing permafrost thaw. Discounting the Big Belch (in some ways reminiscent of the potential for a sudden nuclear strike in the Cold War), may buy us a little psychological relief, but there’s a whole lot of bog-standard surface level permafrost out there melting at an accelerating rate.

    Instead of one or two giant tipping points, different regions and ground compositions make for lots and lots of smaller tipping points, where a single delta or island or shoreline collapses quickly after it starts to thaw, and we are seeing them happen more and more (a heatwave here, a Siberian wildfire there).

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