The generational divide over climate action is a myth, study finds

Older people are just as likely as younger people to recognise the need for climate action, according to research conducted by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and New Scientist Magazine. 

The researchers found that around seven in 10 people from all generations say climate change, biodiversity loss and other environmental issues are big enough problems that they justify significant changes to people’s lifestyles.

Similarly, there are almost identical levels of agreement across the generations of people who were willing to make changes to their own lifestyles to reduce the impact of climate change. 

There was virtually no difference between the proportion of Baby Boomers (68%), Gen X (66%), Millennials (65%) and Gen Z (70%) who said they are prepared to make such sacrifices. 

While younger people are often thought to be more active on climate issues, they are actually more likely than older generations to say there’s no point in changing their behaviour to tackle climate change because it won’t make any difference anyway: 33% of Gen Z and 32% of Millennials feel this way, compared with 22% of Gen X and 19% of Baby Boomers.

women holding signs during daytime

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said: ‘There are many myths about the differences between generations – but none are more destructive than the claim that it’s only the young who care about climate change.

‘When Time magazine named Greta Thunberg their person of the year in 2019, they called her a ‘standard-bearer in generational battle’, which is reflective of the unthinking ageism that has crept into some portrayals of the environmental movement. But, as I examine in my new book, Generations, these stereotypes collapse when we look at the evidence.

‘There is virtually no difference in views between generations on the importance of climate action, and all say they are willing to make big sacrifices to achieve this.

‘What’s more, older people are actually less likely than the young to feel that it’s pointless to act in environmentally conscious ways because it won’t make a difference. Parents and grandparents care deeply about the legacy they’re leaving for their children and grandchildren – not just their house or jewellery, but the state of the planet. If we want a greener future, we need to act together, uniting the generations, rather than trying to drive an imagined wedge between them.’



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