It’s quite widely accepted that today’s youth are going to live with the results of climate change. Some interesting studies have been done recently by the University of Bath1 and the Office for National Statistics2 to see how young people are reacting to climate change and what they think about the perceived government response.
Younger people across countries were concerned about climate change with 59% of the global youth population being very or extremely worried. The UK youth score 10% lower with a total of 49% very or extremely worried young people. Even 26% of the UK youth finds that their daily functioning is affected by these worries.
|Thoughts about climate change
|People have failed to care for planet||83||80|
|Future is frightening||75||72|
|Humanity is doomed||56||51|
|Less opportunity than parents||55||53|
|Most valued will be destroyed||55||47|
|Family security will be threatened||52||39|
|Hesitant to have children||39||38|
Table 1 Percentages (%) of whole sample of negative thoughts about climate change1
Diving a bit more into depth of what youth are actually thinking about climate change you can see that in general UK youth are less negative on all aspects compared to their international peers. Still the numbers say that 80% of UK youth think that people have failed to care for the planet and 72% find the future frightening. This is quite a depressing view.
Thoughts and feelings compared to the older generation
In the end of 2021, just ahead the COP26 UN Climate Conference three-quarter (75%) of adults said they were worried about the impact of climate change. And 43% were feeling anxious about the future more widely in the past month.2
When the younger and older age groups are compared. The younger age groups of 25-34 years appeared slightly more likely to report being very worried about the future of the environment. However, the upside of this negative outcome is that according to the survey young people with more worry and anxiety are stimulated to take climate actions. And are more likely to have made a lot changes to their lifestyle.2
The thoughts of UK youth towards the effectiveness of their government’s climate actions
|Thoughts about government response
|Failing young people||65||65|
|Lying about impact of actions taken||64||61|
|Dismissing people’ distress||60||58|
|Betraying me/future generations||58||57|
|Acting in line with climate science||36||32|
|Protecting me, planet & future gens||33||31|
|Can be trusted||31||28|
|Doing enough to avoid catastrophe||31||26|
|Taking concerns seriously enough||30||27|
Table 2 Percentage (%) of whole sample of beliefs about government response about climate change1
UK youth are more or less in line with or even more negative than their international peers with regards to perceptions of their government climate policies. The government response towards climate is rated very negative. Only 28% think that the government response can be trusted and only 27% thinks that their concerns are taken seriously enough.
In conclusion climate change has a big impact on the lives of young people in the UK. It produces climate anxiety, and perceptions of the failure of the effectiveness of their government’s climate polices. The positive side of this anxiety doesn’t need to be neglected since people who have more anxiety tend to take more climate action.
Youth climate groups in the UK
There are about 250 climate action groups3 in the UK at the moment. The groups are organized on a domestic and or local level. There are more and more climate actions groups made up of young people. They all slightly differ in approach and age group focus. We see that there are different definitions of “youth”, but in general “youth” is defined as the age from 15-24 years. Sometimes even stretched up to 35 years. Some interesting climate groups to explore include:
UK Youth Climate Coalition
One of the earlier youth climate actions groups founded in 2008 with focus on 18–29-year-olds. Their mission is “to mobilise and empower young people to take positive action for global climate justice.” They are structured in different working groups focusing on different topics like the “COP” and “Gas”. They try to make impact by running campaigns with a local, national and international focus.
More info can be found on https://www.ukycc.com/
Young Climate Warriors
Climate action group with a focus on children. Their vision is that all children will have the opportunity and resources to help them learn and understand about climate change and feel empowered to reflect, discuss and choose their own path of action. They try to make impact by promoting climate action at schools and families across the UK by weekly climate change challenges. They started off in 2019 and claim that already 1000 children signed up as Young Climate Warrior.
More info can be found on https://www.youngclimatewarriors.org/
UK Student Climate Network
Climate action group with a focus on students within the UK. They stand for mass systematic change, putting diverse youth voices at the forefront of our campaign towards the UK Government, to ensure a liveable future for all.6 They are trying to make impact by supporting youth strikes across England and Wales.
More info can be found on https://ukscn.org/
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard UK Country Manager Derk Hordijk
Learn More Sources
1 Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey, December 2021, link
2 Data on public attitudes to the environment and the impact of climate change, Great Britain, Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), October 2021, link
3 Friends of the Earth, UK, 2022, link
4 UK Youth Climate Coalition, About us, 2022, link
5 Young Climate Warriors, Impact Statement, 2022, link
6 UK Student Climate Network, About us, 2022, link