Almost one third (31%) of 18 to 34 year olds are very or extremely worried about climate change, according to new research. In comparison, only one fifth (19%) of over 65s identified as concerned.
“Millennials are the first generation that were taught about climate change at school – so we have grown up with it being a fact, something that we are constantly aware of,” Stephanie Shields, 24, told HuffPost UK.
While 93% of Brits believe that the world’s climate is definitely or probably changing, only one quarter (25%) of people are very or extremely worried about climate change, according to the annual British Social Attitudes Survey. Meanwhile, 45% are only somewhat worried, and 28% are not very or not at all worried at all. So, why is there such a disparity when it comes to concern for climate change? For Jess Dante, 28, the biggest problem is that it’s “not a visible, tangible problem”.
“No one will understand the impact of [climate change] before it’s too late to reverse it,” she told HuffPost UK.
Cutting your meat and dairy intake was recently reported to be the best thing you can do for the planet. For Jess, this was her starting point: “To help do my part, I recently cut out meat from my diet completely, as the meat industry is one of the biggest drivers of climate change.”
Thomas Jayamaha, a 19-year-old participant in Friends of the Earth’s My World, My Home leadership programme for young people, feels it’s his duty as a young person and a global citizen to do the best he can for the environment. “We should take a guardian role and not a disruptive one towards our planet. Education has empowered me to take a stance against climate change,” he told HuffPost UK.
Jo Salter, 51, can’t see why the older demographic aren’t more concerned, as she became even more focussed on the “bigger picture” after having children. “I guess it’s because many people over 35 are more focussed on short term, every day living,” she told HuffPost UK. “There’s probably also a bit of a hangover from the 80s and 90s ‘looking after yourself’ attitude. Back then, environmentalists were considered to be hippies and slightly laughed at.”
For younger people, the environment (and what our current lifestyles are doing to it) is no a laughing matter. “The thing that worries me most is the effect that it will and is already having on nature,” Stephanie said. “Humans created this problem, but the animals that will feel it most are those who are specially adapted to a different habitat, such as polar bears and other arctic animals.”
“Millennials are the first generation that was taught about climate change at school – so we have grown up with it being a fact, something that we are constantly aware of.”
The survey also found that people aged 18 to 34 are less likely to report doing things to save energy, even though they were part of the most ‘concerned’ age group. Chris Bryant, 25, says that he’s found decisions like these aren’t completely cut and dry.
“It could be due to the fact that millennials make these choices due to ethical, as well as environmental, reasons,” he said. “And in a lot of cases, I feel like people are more likely to engage in pro-environmental behaviours as their incomes rise, which also happens as you get older,” he told HuffPost UK.