Across the world, youth are mobilizing for climate action by demanding their leaders do better to secure their futures, and the United States is no exception.
Compared to older generations, young Americans are more worried about global warming and believe more strongly that it will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes. As a result, younger generations have more support for certain interventions viewed as necessary to reach climate goals: in a 2021 survey, for instance, 81 percent of Millennials (born 1981-96) and 76 percent of Gen Zers (born after 1996) wanted the United States to prioritize alternative energy development, compared to just 63 percent of Boomers and older (born 1946 and earlier). Sixty-six percent of Gen Zers and 64 percent of Millennials opposed more offshore oil and gas drilling, while only 46 percent of Boomers and older did.
Gaps between older and younger generations are most pronounced in Republicans, and especially when it comes to support for expanding fossil fuel use. Gen Z Republicans, for instance, are 30 percentage points less likely to support more fracking for natural gas and more offshore oil and gas drilling than Boomer and older Republicans (48 percent vs. 79 percent for offshore oil and gas, and 44 percent vs. 74 percent for fracking).
Ideological differences are present not only between older and younger generations, but also within the youth community itself. These differences largely reflect political divides present in American society at large. For instance, 33 percent of Democrat and Democrat-leaning youth (aged 18-30) believe protecting the environment should be a priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. This is compared to only 18 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning youth. And while 39 percent of young adults aged 18-30 approve of how President Biden is handling climate change, gaps are evident by party: only 24 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning youth approve of his performance on climate, compared to 57 percent of Democrat and Democrat-leaning youth.
Surveys have also shown youth are often more likely than their older counterparts to want to take action on climate. According to polls conducted in 2018 and 2019, 37 percent of Millennials were willing to contact their government officials about global warming, compared to 28 percent of Silent Generation participants. And while 38 percent of Millennials were willing to volunteer for an organization working on global warming, only 20 percent of Silent Generation members were. As younger generations look to get more engaged in combatting climate change, a number of youth-led groups have been gaining attention, both nationally and locally. Several prominent national groups include:
- The Sunrise Movement, which describes itself as a youth movement to stop climate change while creating millions of good jobs in the process. The group mobilized around the Green New Deal resolution, and it focuses both on Congressional advocacy and electing leaders in support of the Green New Deal concepts. Sunrise is a well-known and influential progressive youth group with over 400 local hubs across the country.
- The American Conservation Coalition, which is a leading organization for young conservatives interested in environmental and climate issues. Founded by a group of Millennials in 2017, ACC aims to mobilize young people around market-based and limited-government environmental action. Their American Climate Contract lays the blueprint for ACC’s advocacy, including a focus on energy innovation and natural climate solutions. ACC has 101 local branches spanning the country.
- Youth v. Gov, which is a global legal campaign (with a significant presence in the United States) that represents young people who are suing their governments for their actions causing and perpetuating the climate crisis. Youth law cases against governments are an increasing trend worldwide, and a number of lawsuits at the state and federal levels are ongoing in the United States. The Youth v. Gov community includes plaintiffs from some of these cases, including Juliana v. United States and Held v. State of Montana, which will be the first youth climate lawsuit to go to trial in 2023. While these lawsuits have had varying levels of success in the United States, the movement has been successful at raising awareness for youth’s right to a livable planet.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard US Country Manager Christina Cilento
Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:San_Francisco_Youth_Climate_Strike_-_March_15,_2019_-_18.jpg