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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

The Rising Tide of Youth Climate Anxiety

There's been a lot of hot air from politicians this week about the impacts of social media on our kids. And as a Dad of two teenagers, I'm the first to admit that it concerns me. But I'm finding it hard not to feel cycincial when the Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek seems more concerned about social media than she is about climate change. Ironially, she's been all over social media about social media, but silent on climate change.

Without downplaying legitimate concerns about social media, a growing body of evidence shows an unsettling trend among youth worldwide about climate anxiety. A study published in The Lancet, provides a comprehensive look at this. It reveals the deep emotional and psychological impact that the climate crisis is having on young people. In this article, I delve into it's key findings and explore what they mean for our kids and collective future.

The Pervasiveness and Toll of Climate Anxiety

The study surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16-25 across ten countries including Australia. It showed 60% of youth feel very or extremely worried about climate change. This anxiety is not just a fleeting concern but a pervasive sentiment that affects their daily lives. More than four-fifths are at least moderately worried, and three-quarers feel the future is frightening. Climate anxiety has clearly become a defining feature of their lives.

Young people report a range of negative emotions linked to climate change, including sadness, anger, powerlessness, helplessness, and guilt. More than half of them believe humanity is doomed. This highlights a profound sense of despair. These emotions are not just abstract feelings; they manifest in tangible ways, disrupting young people’s ability to concentrate, sleep, study, and engage in leisure and community activities.

One of the most striking findings from the study is a widespread belief that governments are failing to address the climate crisis effectively. Two-thirds of young people feel governments are letting them down, and nearly three-fifths feel outright betrayal from the lack of government action. This is a significant driver of their anxiety. It exacerbates their helplessness and frustration.

The impact of climate anxiety on young people's lives cannot be overstated. They report difficulties focusing on their studies, engaging in play, and sleeping due to worries about the climate. This anxiety is compounded by a sense of dismissal when they try to voice their concerns, leading to a vicious cycle of feeling unheard and increasingly anxious.

Call to Action

Young people are clearly feeling the psychological weight of the climate crisis. They want to be considered and included in decisions that shape their future. Of course, we need to deal with impacts of social media on their mental health. But effective government's don't only focus on issues that are easy or good politics. They deal with the harder issues too. That's why they must take climate change seriously. Indeed, it's a bigger and much more existential issue than social media.

The time to act is now. If you haven't done so already, something you can do right now is tell the government that you're concerned about the impacts of climate change on our youth. Support, sign and share Senator David Pococks petition for Australia's politicans to adopt a duty of care for our future generations. I have. Check it out here.

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