Youth and climate change

Yesterday, Robert Næss here at the institute and I had a column (Norwegian) in local newspaper Adresseavisa titled “Youths’ fears of climate change”, where we discuss the impact media coverage of climate changes has on how youth perceive environmental issues. We have found that there is remarkably little research into this, with only two small studies touching on the issue at all.

Using the data Robert collected at the annual Research Days last year, we find that youth actually get most of their knowledge about climate change from the media, and not from school or at home, and that what they read and see about it scares them. Most of the respondents also claim that they are conscious of their energy usage and try to limit it in their everyday actions. However, the people around them, the family and other grown-ups, are not as energy conscious. This finding is of course subject to some uncertainty, as there is reason to expect some erroneous self reporting on this issue.

If it does reflect reality, then there is reason to be both pleased and worried with these findings. It’s good that the leading generation of tomorrow is conscious of environmental issues and willing to take action to do something about it. It’s extremely important that people get good habits at an early stage, for the behaviour to stay with them for the rest of their life. On the other hand, the fact that youth are worried and anxious about what they hear about climate change is food for thought. People probably should be worried about climate change, because it’s a real threat that we have to start adressing properly very, very soon. However, if people are too worried about climate changes being inevitable and large-scale, they might adopt a fatalistic attitude towards it, and this might stand in the way of important changes in behaviour and attitudes.

If you want a closer look at the data from the small survey, my esteemed colleague Thomas Berker has put up an excellent site with graphs of all the data. Go see all the exciting little numbers and purdy picshures!

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