Climate change tops list of concerns for Generation Z

People aged between 18 and 25 are increasingly concerned about climate change, global survey reveals.

Activists protest against climate change as the COP25 climate summit is held in Madrid
The highest percentage of young people most concerned about climate change was in Switzerland, Spain, and Germany [File: Javier Barbancho/Reuters]

Madrid, Spain – Climate change is one of the most pressing issues for Generation Z, according to a global survey backed by Amnesty International.

Published on Tuesday, and coinciding with Human Rights Day, the Ipsos-MORI survey questioned more than 10,000 people aged 18-25 across all six inhabited continents on what they viewed as the most important issues faced by the world.

Out of a series of 23 options, climate change came highest on the list of concerns, with 41 percent giving it top priority. Thirty-six percent chose pollution and 31 percent suggested terrorism. 

Of the 22 countries where the survey was carried out, the highest percentage of young people most concerned about climate change was in Switzerland (57 percent), Spain (53 percent) and Germany (52 percent). 

Sixty percent agreed that “human rights must be protected, even at the cost of the economy”, with only 15 percent disagreeing.

‘Greatest inter-generational threat’

Presenting the report, Amnesty’s director for Spain, Esteban Beltran said that: “In the question of human rights, climate change is the greatest inter-generational threat that exists.”

An overwhelming 54 percent said governments, more than individuals (28 percent) and businesses or corporations (14 percent), should shoulder the greatest responsibility for protecting the environment, with Beltran warning that widespread state inaction on climate change means “a generation of young people is being betrayed”.

While climate change topped the lists of concerns at world level, at national level, corruption was most frequently mentioned – by 36 percent of those polled. 

That was followed by economic instability (26 percent), pollution (26 percent) income inequality (25 percent), climate change (22 percent) and violence against women (21 percent).

Amnesty’s climate change adviser, Chiara Liguori, warned that governments were “backtracking” on their promises in the Paris climate agreement of 2015 to maintain solid links between human and environmental rights.

“In the [climate change] rulebook that was agreed in Katowice,” – where COP24 was held last year – “there are no strong references to human rights, and this year in COP25 there’s a similar trend,” she said. “It’s a shame because human rights play a critical role in climate action.”

Karyn Watson, a 22-year-old Chilean human rights and environmental activist told Al Jazeera: “Young people are protesting about this because if we don’t act now, there is no way back. Fighting for climate change is not just about young peoples’ future, it’s about our present too. It’s urgent because the people who are most marginalised in society and whose human rights are most vulnerable are often the ones who suffer the most from climate change – right now.”

Josefina Mella, a 23-year-old activist also from Chile, said: “In my country, there are places where the contamination is so bad, children are falling ill with respiratory diseases and this survey is really important because it shows that young people are conscious of the problems of climate change like that. We know it goes hand in hand with human rights.

“People can’t just say ‘ah, no, this is something that only concerns adults’. They have to listen to the young as well:”

The survey comes amid worldwide protests, which Amnesty said are largely led by young people and students and which denounce the failure to address corruption, inequality and abuse of power.

“For young people, climate change is one of the challenges of our era,” Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo said. “This is a wake-up call for our world leaders.”

Source: Al Jazeera