Survey reveals young people are more willing than adults to tackle climate change

Media Relations Team, 16 June 2021

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Primary school children and a teacher holding 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals boards
Photo credit: Jon Craig

A survey carried out by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the Global Goals Centre Bristol has revealed that young people in the UK are prepared to lead the way when it comes to combatting climate change and are more willing than adults to make changes to their lifestyles.

A total of 1,170 participants aged 7–18 were surveyed, answering questions that related to their understanding of climate change, it’s effect on people in the UK and abroad, willingness to make lifestyle changes and who they feel is responsible for tackling climate change.

The questions in this new piece of research were based on a survey commissioned in March by Sky News which reported that a quarter of Britons are unwilling to change key habits to tackle climate change. All of the 1,705 people surveyed by Sky/YouGov were aged 18 or over which prompted researcher Dr Verity Jones at UWE Bristol to launch her own survey and uncover the views of young people.

Dr Jones said: ‘‘There are over 13 million young people in Britain and while they may not be able to vote, many are extremely concerned about the climate crisis and want to have their voices heard. Surveys such as those carried out by Sky earlier this year completely overlook the views of young people despite the fact that they are the generation who will be most affected by climate change. It is vital that young people are included in data collection around climate change and that their views are considered.’’

A comparison between the two survey results suggests young people are more aware than adults of the impact of climate change with 84% of young people believing that people in other countries have been affected by climate change compared to just 69% of adults.

While the results suggest a similar level of understanding amongst young people and adults when it comes to climate change and associated terms such as renewable energy, carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses, young people were much more open to changing their lifestyles to combat the effects of climate change. Seventy two percent of young people surveyed said they are willing to support key habits in reducing climate change compared to 62% of adults. These changes include not using diesel or petrol cars, paying more for flights, meat and heating homes.

The survey also revealed that the majority of young people (53%) support the ban of the sale of new diesel and petrol cars compared to only 29% of adults, while 82% of young people support a shift away from a reliance on fossil fuels.

While a majority of young people demonstrated a high amount of knowledge around climate change and recognise the importance of political leaders in mitigating the crisis, they had little knowledge of political meetings such as COP26 or who the current political leader for climate change is; a finding that was shared in the adult Sky/YouGov survey carried out in March.

The full findings of the survey are published in the Hear our Voice report written by Dr Verity Jones, along with recommendations on how young people’s views can be considered in data collection and how schools can improve education on climate change and alleviate feelings of eco-anxiety among young people. The report will be used by the Climate Change Education Research Network where teachers from across the south west work towards developing inclusive climate change curriculums that inform school policy across the region in England and Wales.

The report will also be used to develop the Global Goals Centre in Bristol; the world’s first immersive visitor attraction dedicated to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Goals Centre is an educational charity based in Bristol. They develop cutting edge projects with young people exploring climate and equality issues with a positive narrative to help overcome climate anxiety and are creating a unique online resource hub to help educators and professionals achieve the Global Goals.

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