Climate change: Inadequate governmental response is causing climate anxiety in young people

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stefan Klebert, Chief Executive Officer, GEA


  • More than half of young people worry about the future of the planet, according to a new survey.
  • 75% described the future as “frightening”.
  • Despite the lack of action from global governments, young people are taking action.

Governments around the world must protect the mental health of young people by taking action against climate change, a study from The Lancet Planetary Health has concluded.

Young people are “extremely” worried about the climate crisis, according to the data, published on sciencedirect.com. Surveying 10,000 young people worldwide (aged 16 to 25), participants say they feel frustrated with world governments’ lack of action.

Investigating “climate anxiety” in young people and how they perceive global responses from governments, the report finds that just over half of respondents are “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change. Furthermore, 75% described the future as “frightening” and 83% believe people have failed to take care of the planet.

This chart shows levels worry about climate change, by country
More than 45% of respondents said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily lives. Image: Science Direct

Psychologically damaging

Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that July 2021 was officially the hottest month on Earth since records began in 1880. In July, the global land and ocean surface temperature hit 0.93 degrees Celsius above the 20th-century average.

Caroline Hickman, from the University of Bath, Climate Psychology Alliance and co-lead author on the study, warns that government inaction is psychologically damaging and potentially violates international human rights law.

“Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments,” she said in a statement about the report. “Children and young people are now mobilizing around the world and taking governments to court; arguing that failure to act on climate change violates their human rights.”

“The decisions that those in power are making now will have the greatest impact upon the youngest and future generations, but they feel dismissed and ignored,” added co-lead, Dr Liz Marks, from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology. “We must consider the futures of young people, listen to their voices and place them at the centre of decision making.”

“It’s so damaging to put this problem on the shoulders of young people,” said Beth Irving, a 19-year-old climate activist. “Hope needs to come instead from palpable structural action,” she said.

This chart shows global land and ocean surface temperature anomalies in July (compared to the 20th century average).
July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. Image: Statista

What are young people doing to help solve the crisis?

Regardless of the perceived government inaction, Melati Wijsen and her sister Isabel are training up a generation by giving them the tools to make a difference.

YOUTHTOPIA offers on-the-ground local workshops and training for young people who want to become “changemakers”. YOUTHTOPIA is the second project from the pair after they helped bring about a ban on single-use plastic bags six years ago in Bali – a movement called Bye Bye Plastic Bags.

Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists sat in front of the Swedish parliament every day for three weeks in August 2018 to protest the lack of action on climate change. As a result, she launched the Fridays for Future school climate strikes.

Felix Finkbeiner took matters into his own hands when he launched Plant for the Planet, an initiative to plant 1 trillion trees, 15 years ago, at the age of nine.

Indigenous people and local communities have been badly affected by climate change but are offering solutions to these issues too, as Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, discussed in an article for the World Economic Forum.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.Global warming can be beaten thanks to this simple plan

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.Mission Possible Platform: Delivering industry pathways t…

“Here in Chad’s Sahel region, I developed a participatory mapping approach to leverage indigenous knowledge and nature-based solutions to protect and share fresh-water resources, identify drought-resistant crops, and help combat climate change and desertification through sustainable pastoralism,” she writes.

Research conducted by the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Company confirms that natural climate solutions (NCS) can provide one-third of climate mitigation to reach a 1.5- or 2-degree pathway by 2030.

The Nature and Net Zero report sets out five actions to accelerate the scale-up of NCS implementation through the combined efforts of business leaders, policymakers and civil society.

Comments

  1. To date there clearly has been inexcusably insufficient political courage and will to properly act upon the cause-and-effect of manmade global warming thus climate change. Therefore, humankind desperately needs environmentally conscious and active young people, especially those approaching or reaching voting age. In contrast, the dinosaur electorate who have been voting into high office consecutive mass-pollution promoting or complicit/complacent governments for decades are gradually dying off thus making way for voters who fully support a healthy Earth thus populace.

    Meanwhile, here in the corporate-powered West, if the universal availability of green-energy alternatives would come at the expense of the traditional energy production companies, one can expect obstacles, including the political and regulatory sort. If something notably conflicts with corporate big-profit interests, even very progressive motions are greatly resisted, often enough successfully. …

    Global mass-addiction to fossil fuel products undoubtedly helps keep the average consumer quiet about the planet’s greatest polluter, lest they feel and/or be publicly deemed hypocritical. Meanwhile, neoliberals and conservatives remain preoccupied with vocally criticizing one another for their relatively trivial politics and diverting attention away from some of the planet’s greatest polluters, where it should and needs to be sharply focused.

    As individual consumers, however, too many of us still recklessly behave as though throwing non-biodegradable garbage down a dark chute, or pollutants flushed down toilet/sink drainage pipes or emitted out of elevated exhaust pipes or spewed from sky-high jet engines and very tall smoke stacks — even the largest toxic-contaminant spills in rarely visited wilderness — can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, water, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of mind).

    Industry and fossil-fuel friendly governments can tell when a very large portion of the populace is too tired and worried about feeding/housing themselves or their family, and the virus-variant devastation still being left in COVID-19’s wake — all while on insufficient income — to criticize them for whatever environmental damage their policies cause/allow, particularly when not immediately observable.

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