Youth news: New global survey illustrates climate change anxiety


A new global survey shows the depth of anxiety many young people are feeling today about climate change. A majority of them report feeling fearful of the future, sorrowful and doomed.

The Bath University-led survey questioned young people from 10 countries. Its focus concentrated specifically on young people’s emotional reactions to climate change.

Claiming to be the biggest global survey of its kind, it gathered responses from 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25 about the following statements:

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

In addition:
Nearly 60 percent of the young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried.
More than 45 percent of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.
Three-quarters said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56 percent) say they think humanity is doomed. Many said governments are failing to respond adequately.
Two-thirds reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious.
Many admitted to feelings of fear, anger, despair, grief and shame – and hope.

Many disclose feelings of betrayal and of being ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.

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

“It’s different for young people – for us, the destruction of the planet is personal,” a 16-year old told surveyors.

Mental and physical health are being impacted by chronic stress over climate change, young people say. They predict this will worsen if severe weather events continue.

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

“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,” lead author, Caroline Hickman says.

“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 say levels of anxiety appear to be greatest in nations where government climate policies are considered weakest.

The most worried rich nation is Portugal, which has seen repeated wildfires.

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.

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”.


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