Young people believe climate change is biggest threat - survey

Just 1% of 16 to 21 year-old respondents describe their generation as ‘optimistic’

Young people living in Ireland believe climate change is one of the biggest issues facing their generation, and expect to make a significant contribution during their lives to mitigating the damage it causes, a new survey finds.

The survey, of people aged 16-21 conducted by Young Social Innovators and Amárach Research, found 47 per cent of respondents count climate change as one of the biggest issues facing them. Some 64 per cent believe they will contribute towards climate action during their lifetime.

Almost 60 per cent of young people surveyed described the mood of their generation as “stressed, anxious or depressed”, while 16 per cent of them described it as “enthusiastic” and 11 per cent said it was “motivated”. Just 1 per cent said “optimistic”.

When asked for the most important issue facing young people, 60 per cent mentioned depression or anxiety, followed by school/exam stress (57 per cent); anxiety about the future (48 per cent); drugs/alcohol (48 per cent); and climate change (47 per cent).

Sarah Rooney, associate director with Amárach, said the results showed the importance of listening to what young people have to say on climate change.

“Interestingly, this cohort of young people is less concerned about poverty (14 per cent) and terrorism (12 per cent) as previous generations may have been,” she said. “It is notable that 26 per cent of young people surveyed are concerned about cyber bullying and only 2 per cent have concerns about social media.”

Young people were also asked who they felt listened to them most. Four out of five young people feel they are being listened to by their parents. However, only 12 per cent feel they are listened to by the Government and politicians.