Over 50% of Young People Very Worried About Climate and Feel Betrayed By Governments

Over 50% of Young People Very Worried About Climate and Feel Betrayed By Governments

Young people worldwide are feeling chronic stress about the climate crisis, a new study shows. The largest study on young people's climate anxiety to date surveyed thousands of 16 to 25-year-olds from the UK, Finland, France, US, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, India, the Philippines, and Nigeria. It found that young people are worried about the future and upset and confused about government inaction. Nearly 60% of those surveyed said they felt very worried or extremely worried; 65% said that governments are failing young people; and almost as many said governments are lying about the impact of their actions. Furthermore:

  • More than 45% said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives
  • 56% think humanity is doomed
  • 66% reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious
  • Other prevalent emotions included fear, anger, despair, grief, shame, and hope

The study was released on a pre-publication basis but is still under peer review.

Why This Matters

This study is the first to show a direct link between young people's concerns and government inaction and is the most far-reaching in scope. There's plenty of reason to feel worry, frustration, and anxiety -- none of the world's biggest economies have a climate plan that will meet their Paris Agreement targets, meant to keep global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees and prevent devastating impacts.

Lead author Caroline Hickman from Bath University told the Guardian:

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?

The Climate Anxiety/Climate Lawsuit Connection

Many young people are upset about their government's response to climate change and have started taking their concerns to court. As Grist wrote:

The results lend credence to lawsuits in which young people have taken their governments to court over climate change, arguing that political leaders have failed to protect their futures and their right to a healthy environment.

Young people from Peru and Portugal have taken their countries to court and in Germany, youth activists won a rewrite of the country's emissions laws after arguing they were too vague. In the US, the Juliana case, which claims the government's climate-damaging actions violated young people's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, remains in settlement negotiations.

60 Minutes: Juliana v. United States - The climate lawsuit, January 23, 2020.

The YEARS Project: Juliana v. United States: Meet The Kids Suing Over Climate Change, November 20, 2019.