Data Snapshot: Millennials and Climate Change

March 13, 2018

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From more frequent flooding to heat waves and drought, adverse impacts from climate change are already being experienced.1 Scientists warn of worse impacts within the lifetime of many people alive today, if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced. Although majorities in all age groups recognize the reality of climate change, awareness is highest among young adults.2

Around three-quarters of millennial generation respondents (roughly, adults now under 40) on recent surveys agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is happening now and caused mainly by human activities. Although young adults tend to be more liberal, and express greater trust in science, those factors do not account for the generation gap on climate change.3 Other possible explanations include the relatively recent emergence of climate change as a major issue, during millennials’ formative years, or the longer time horizons of young adults.

Endnotes

1. USGCRP, 2017: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [D.J. Wuebbles, D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, doi: 10.7930/J0J964J6, https://science2017.globalchange.gov/.

2. L.C. Hamilton, J. Hartter, M. Lemcke-Stampone, D.W. Moore, and T.G. Safford, “Tracking public beliefs about anthropogenic climate change,” PLOS ONE 10(9) (2015): e0138208, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138208.

3. L.C. Hamilton, “Public awareness of the scientific consensus on climate,” Sage Open (2016), doi: 10.1177/2158244016676296.