Young people around the world are extremely worried about the climate crisis and are particularly frustrated at governments’ inaction in the face of the planet’s bleaker future, according to a new survey.
The study, published on Thursday in the science journal The Lancet Planetary Health, surveyed 10,000 people ages 16 to 25 across 10 countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Australia, Portugal, India, Nigeria, the Philippines and Brazil.
Nearly 60% of young people surveyed said they were “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change, and 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning.
In what study authors — from the University of Bath, New York University Langone Health, Stanford, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and other academic institutions — described as the largest, most global survey of climate anxiety in young people, nearly two-thirds of young people said their governments were not doing enough to avoid a climate catastrophe, and 58% felt governments were “betraying me and/or future generations.”
Three-quarters of young respondents said they believe “the future is frightening,” and 56% felt “humanity is doomed.”
“I grew up being afraid of drowning in my own bedroom,” said Mitzi Tan, a 23-year-old from the Philippines, in the study’s release.
“Society tells me that this anxiety is an irrational fear that needs to be overcome — one that meditation and healthy coping mechanisms will ‘fix,’” the young climate activist added. “But that erases the accountability from those who are directly causing this fear. At its root, our climate anxiety comes from this deep-set feeling of betrayal because of government inaction. To truly address our growing climate anxiety, we need justice.”
The United Nations’ latest climate report repeated what similar reports have been saying for years, with even greater certainty: Humans are the “unequivocal” cause of climate change, and the window to avoid catastrophic living conditions worldwide due to global warming is rapidly closing.
This year alone, we’ve seen the hottest July ever recorded on the planet (again), the largest single wildfire in California history (again) and deadly Hurricane Ida in the U.S. causing devastating flooding from the Gulf Coast through the Northeast (again).
“Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments,” study co-author Caroline Hickman of the University of Bath said in a release. “What more do governments need to hear to take action?”