The Teens Are Pissed and Freaked the Hell Out

Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old Swedish activist, participates in a climate strike September 13, 2019.
Photo: Getty

Climate change scares most American teens—and they’re reacting by taking action, according to a new survey.

The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation published the survey results Monday. The findings couldn’t be more timely: Young people around the world are organizing a massive climate strike Friday whose participants already include Patagonia, Lush, and Ben & Jerry’s. Their businesses will be closed Friday in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike.

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The survey, conducted between July and August, polled 629 teenagers (ages 13 to 17) online and by telephone. Fifty-seven percent of teen participants said climate change makes them feel afraid; 52 percent felt angry, according to the survey. Most also acknowledged that both the U.S. government and individuals in their communities are doing too little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the teens are doing what they can. About one in four have participated in a walkout, attended a rally, or written a public official to opine on the state of the climate, per the Post. That’s something to celebrate—and this wave of energy is largely thanks to 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She began the Fridays for Future movement in August 2018, skipping school every Friday to protest outside the Swedish parliament for the country’s inaction on climate change. The teen badass is now in the U.S. for the United Nations Climate Summit keeping her Friday strikes going.

Teens aren’t doing this all alone, though, as the survey results show. The survey included the perspective of some 2,293 adults—and more than half also feel afraid. Exactly 50 percent feel angry too, so their emotions aren’t that far off from how the youth are feeling. Some 38 percent of adults would call climate change a “crisis,” which is just a percentage point more than the teens. Both groups—84 percent and 88 percent for adults and teens, respectively—believe there’s “still time to prevent the worst effects.” The kids can’t be perfect, though: Most had heard nothing or very little about the Green New Deal.

Our youngest generations are going to bear the worst consequences of climate change, and that’s why they’re not letting this issue go. After all, they didn’t create this mess. This is the world they’ve inherited, though, and they deserve to enjoy it every bit as older generations have. Teens won’t let their fears stop them from taking action. They can’t afford to. None of us can.

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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