November 10, 2021 – Gen Z, or anyone born after 1996, much more likely than baby boomers to have fatalistic views about behavioral adjustments to tackle climate change, research shows with American adults. Yet both age groups are equally susceptible to such changes.
Conventional wisdom puts the two generations in opposite positions. Generation Z is portrayed as a group of Greta Thunberg, crusading for sweeping societal changes to slow and reverse the effects of global warming. Meanwhile, baby boomers, or those born after WWII until the mid-1960s, are unwilling to give up SUVs or disposable coffee mugs for the sake of future generations.
For a clearer picture of generational attitudes to climate change, researchers at Kings College London conducted a survey in August 2021 with a representative sample of 2,153 American adults. (Investigators also asked about other issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic.)
One in 3 Gen Z agrees that changing behaviors to tackle climate change won’t make a difference, compared to 1 in 4 baby boomers agreeing with this sentiment. Yet baby boomers did not appear to be confident in their own beliefs: they were much more likely than respondents in other age groups to agree that people aged 65 to 79 would consider the personal changes as futile in the fight against climate change.
Contrary to this expressed pessimism, the percentage of people in each generation willing to make big lifestyle changes to tackle climate change was similar, including 60% of Baby Boomers and 61% of Gen Zers.
Across all age groups surveyed, nearly two-thirds of respondents believed there was more intergenerational conflict today than a few decades ago. But only 54% of baby boomers felt that way, compared to 72% of Gen Zers.
The results are just a snapshot of attitudes at any given time. The answers may be different depending on the time of the survey.
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