Rising to the moment: meeting young people’s concerns about climate change

28 September 2021

by Tamsin Morris, Press and Communications Officer

New research has revealed the depth of eco-anxiety and depression among young people. Led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities, the research questioned 10,000 16 and 25 year olds across 10 countries on their feelings about climate change. The results are shocking. Key findings include: three quarters of those questioned say that they thought the future was frightening; over half (56%) of those surveyed thought that humanity was doomed largely due to governments failing to respond adequately to the threat of climate change with two-thirds reported as feeling sad, afraid, anger, powerlessness, despair and grief. 

Other findings reveal that chronic stress over worsening severe weather events is increasing the risk of mental and physical problems in young people. The fear for their own family’s security and anxiety is affecting their ability to sleep, study, eat or play. Eco-anxiety has arisen not just from environmental destruction alone, but is inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The survey reports that young people feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults despite the availability of solutions to climate change. 

What can we do? What’s our responsibility towards young people? 

A Rocha UK offers nature-based solutions to climate change and wants to encourage people in churches not just to listen to their young people and acknowledge their fear, but to act – at home and by urging both church and government to go further faster to heed off climate disaster. For those of any age concerned about climate breakdown, it is encouraging that the younger generation ‘get it’. It gives hope that they are up for much more effective action than previous generations have been. But it would be totally unfair of the older generations now to rely on the young ones to save us all, when the older generations have much greater resources and positions of influence, as well as a duty of care to the young. Older generations understanding and naming climate change as ‘everyone’s issue’ will further help push the government for change. 

The research shows that taking action – even apparently quite small steps – can help worried youth defuse their anxiety and bring a sense of hope. Adults can help by flagging campaigns that they can join and, at home, adopting practical commitments such as reducing meat consumption, switching to renewable energy and planting trees. Caroline Hickman, psychotherapist and board member of the Climate Psychology Alliance and lead author of the research, explained, “We want to reduce eco-anxiety among young people by increasing it among government ministers. We need to ask the government ‘Where is your conscience?’”

For further support please see our recent webinar on ‘Climate grief and pastoral care’ here.

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