Story at a glance

  • A study published in The Lancet documented the pessimistic outlook young people across the world have regarding climate change.
  • Many found their governments have failed or betrayed them, with more than half being extremely worried about the effects of climate change.
  • Recent scientific reports called for major action in the face of irreversible damage coming with warming global temperatures.

A landmark study polled about 10,000 older teenagers and young adults to gauge the toll climate change is taking on mental health, finding that the majority were “very” or “extremely” worried about the effects of rising global temperatures.

Surveying respondents between the ages of 16 and 25 across 10 countries, the study primarily surrounded feelings and sentiments of climate change and the threat it poses to ecosystems and humans across the world.

The paper was published in The Lancet medical journal. 

Titled “Young People's Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon,” the paper asked about the role governments and individuals have in contributing to climate change, along with sentiments surrounding the planet’s climate health.

Eighty-three percent of people from all countries felt that individuals have broadly failed to care for the planet. Another 55 percent of these respondents also reported having less opportunity than their parents given the precarious climate situation. Thirty-nine percent reported they feel uncertain about having children, given the uncertainty of the environment and the added carbon footprint brought by having kids.

Regarding state leadership, 65 percent of respondents felt that the government responses of these 10 countries have failed young people by not making abrupt changes to help mitigate climate change. 

The report specifically showcased a feeling of betrayal young people have toward their governments’ inaction on climate change issues that stand to upend human health and the environment. 

“A large proportion of children and young people around the world report significant emotional distress and a wide range of painful, complex emotions (sad, afraid, angry, powerless, helpless, guilty, ashamed, despair, hurt, grief, depressed),” the report concludes. 

This survey follows recent scientific reports documenting the meteorological and environmental effects of climate change, most notably with the recent United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that found “irreversible” damage to the Earth, including melting ice sheets and warming ocean waters. These could further spawn intense natural disasters like hurricanes and increased coastal flooding. 

Published on Sep 14, 2021