Young people care more about climate change than ever before, they must act to bring about change.
A survey of over 5,000 children conducted by the Oxford University Press chose “climate change” as the Children’s Word of the Year for 2023.
Earlier research also shows a difference of attitudes towards climate change between generations. Millennials and Gen Zers are more concerned by climate change than older generations. This makes sense as younger generations will face more severe consequences of climate change in their lifetimes unless action is taken to reduce global warming.
There is hope that this concern will galvanise young people to drive the necessary change to protect the planet. Fortunately, there is evidence of this already happening.
Across the world, fear over the climate is growing amongst young people. A 2021 study published in The Lancet showed around 70% of people aged 16-25 are extremely or very worried about the climate. This figure rises on average for young people in the Global South, who are more affected by the effects of climate change.
The growing climate anxiety has resulted in youth-led climate action groups and protests being mobilised worldwide. Greta Thunberg led the school strikes at 15 and scores of Just Stop Oil protesters in their twenties and teens have been arrested globally. Tackling climate change is clearly a key issue to young voters.
According to the UN, there are 1.8 billion people aged between 10 and 24, making it the largest ever generation. By using their collective power, young people can pressure politicians into taking the necessary action to prevent global warming increasing to dangerous levels. The world reached 1.48C warming above pre-industrial levels last year, just 0.02C below the target countries committed to avoiding in the 2015 Paris Agreement. In this critical year of elections, young people in democracies must vote to show politicians where their priorities lie. More importantly, politicians must listen to the concerns of young people who fear for their futures. Decades of inaction around climate issues has taken us to the abyss, but it will be young people that pay the price if this inaction continues.