More than half of young people 'extremely anxious' about climate change

Study reveals concerns of youth around the globe who believe governments are failing them

More than half of the world’s young people are fretting about the future of the planet as a result of climate change, a new study has revealed.

The same report, which asked for the views of 10,000 young people aged 16-25 around the globe, said almost 60 per cent were feeling either very worried or extremely worried.

Almost half of respondents, 45 per cent, said climate change had affected their daily lives directly.

People have often suggested climate change is only an issue for the privileged white middle-class in developed countries
Panu Pihkala

Three quarters of those polled said “the future was frightening” with almost two thirds stating global governments were failing young people and lying about the actions they had taken to address climate change.

“It’s very clear young people are morally angry at what they see as inaction on climate change by the key decision-makers,” Panu Pihkala, a researcher from the University of Helsinki, told The National.

“Young people feel they have been betrayed by governments and they are frustrated because many of them are not able to vote yet and influence change.”

The Ossoue glacier is the highest and largest in the French Pyrenees. Specialists suggest it is likely to disappear by 2050 due to climate change. AFP

The study was carried out by academics from a host of global institutes and led by the University of Bath in England.

It canvassed the views of young people in 10 countries: Australia, United States, United Kingdom, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Finland, Portugal, Brazil and France.

The range of countries was crucial to shattering misconceptions about who is affected most by climate change, said Mr Pihkala, who co-authored the report.

“People have often suggested climate change is only an issue for the privileged white middle-class in developed countries,” he said.

“Now we have a huge amount of data that shows it’s just as much a problem for young people in developing countries.”

Almost 40 per cent of young people said they were afraid to have children due to their concerns over climate change.

The majority of respondents, 55 per cent, said climate change meant they would have fewer opportunities than their parents.

A huge 83 per cent said previous generations had failed to take care of the planet while more than half, 52 per cent, said climate change would threaten family security.

While the report made for grim reading on the whole, Mr Pihkala said it still gave reason to be optimistic for the future.

A hunger-striking climate activist has his blood pressure measured in a protest tent camp near the German Parliament in Berlin. AFP

“Anxiety and anger are rational responses to climate change but they also represent a sign of hope that future generations are properly aware of the issue’s importance,” he said.

“There is a strong sense of urgency among young people.”

The study concluded that there was widespread psychological concern among young people across the world, warning that “such high levels of distress, functional impact and feelings of betrayal will negatively affect the mental health of children and young people”.

The report also suggested that continued inaction on climate issues by governments could amount to a breach of international human rights law.

“This study paints a horrific picture of widespread climate anxiety in our children and young people,” said Caroline Hickman, from the Climate Psychology Alliance and co-lead author on the study.

“It suggests for the first time that high levels of psychological distress in youth is linked to government inaction.

“Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments. What more do governments need to hear to take action?”

Mitzi Tan, who took part in the report, told the authors that her anxiety related to climate change was so drastic that she grew up worrying about drowning in her own bedroom.

“Society tells me that this anxiety is an irrational fear that needs to be overcome – one that healthy coping mechanisms will fix,” the 23-year-old from the Philippines said.

“At its root, our climate anxiety comes from this feeling of betrayal because of government inaction."

Updated: September 15th 2021, 4:52 AM