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Study suggests 25% of young people hesitant to speak on climate change

While Gen Z is undoubtedly the most eco-conscious generation to date, a new report suggests many young people are concealing their views on climate change through fear of being judged or getting facts wrong.

Unlike many a generation which came before, a lack of motivation isn’t the problem when it comes to Gen Z and wanting to solve the climate crisis.

On the contrary, a new report from Virgin Media O2 and Global Action Plan suggests a desire to be overly informed – and not to spread misinformation – may be causing a hesitancy among some younger would-be activists.

Recently, a pool of over 2,000 young people aged 16-24 took part in a survey headed up by the telecommunications giant about any climate change concerns they may have been having.

What the results demonstrated, is that the introspective (and insecure) nature we’ve come to associate with Gen Z – particularly through studies on the mental impacts of social media – very much applies within our innate desire to protect the planet.

Though it has been established as a very real phenomenon, in this instance we’re not talking of eco-anxiety, but more the social aspects that come with campaigning or spreading awareness.

Specifically, the survey found that 25% of participants hold back from talking with friends about climate change through fear of being judged. 24% attribute this to avoiding coming across as hypocritical considering their own lifestyle vices.

Despite being dubbed digital natives, a mere 10% of Gen Zers said they felt confident enough to post about the subject online. The large majority who were not wanted to avoid coming across as misinformed, even though 89% reportedly care about climate change.

The report notes there is a ‘significant gender divide’ among burgeoning activists, with far fewer young men reading, liking, and sharing posts related to the planet on social media. In the case of social justice issues like racism and LGBTQ+ rights, however, 70% of men and 81% of women felt confident enough to engage.

This likely stems from a third of young people worrying they don’t know enough about climate change to be of use right now. No, it’s nothing to do with fear of being ‘cancelled’ by friends – in the real world, that just doesn’t happen.

As recent protests throughout Glasgow demonstrated, young people identify with climate change as a massive issue, but perhaps the wider demographic don’t feel equipped to really delve into the specifics within the public domain yet.

Currently, the most notable young efforts are carried out under the guise of fresh-faced activist groups like Fridays for Futures and Zero Hour, but Global Action Plan CEO Sonja Graham believes the key to empowering the whole generation is to ‘break down stigmas.’

‘Everyday conversations about climate change are an important first step in taking action – and we know young people want to act so we must find ways of addressing the barriers that our research highlighted,’ she says.

Her charity is now devising a list of tips to help organisations reach out to young people. These will strive to ‘provide tools’ to ‘make talking about this stuff easier and ultimately, normal.’


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