Generation X is the generation born after the post World War II ‘baby boom’. Generally, they were born in the early 60s till about the late 70s and are mostly parents these days. They were children of the ‘flower power’ generation, listened to the likes of T-Rex and The Clash, and were shaped by the events of the 1979 energy crisis, the Chernobyl disaster and the end of the Cold War. However, according to a new report, when it comes to climate change, they are ‘surpisingly blasé’.
This is not the first time such a survey has been conducted. In 2009, a similar report found that members of Generation X were largely disengaged from climate change. Two years later, a follow-up report from the University of Michigan found that they were only slight more so, but generally still not well-informed about climate change, nor highly concerned about or paying much attention to it.
“Most Generation X-ers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” said Jon D. Miller, author of “The Generation X Report.” “We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X adults expressed about climate change. In 2009, about 22% said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16% said they did so.”
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, took responses from approximately 4,000 Gen Xers—those born between 1961 and 1981, and now between 32 and 52 years of age. The report states that only about 5% of those surveyed in 2011 were alarmed about climate change, and another 18% said they were concerned about it. But 66% said they aren’t sure that global warming is happening, and about 10% said they don’t believe global warming is actually happening.
“This is an interesting and unexpected profile,” Miller said. “Few issues engage a solid majority of adults in our busy and pluralistic society, but the climate issue appears to attract fewer committed activists—on either side—than I would have expected.”
So what is confusing, bemusing, or simply putting off members of Generation X? Miller theorizes that as climate change is such a complex issue, education and scientific knowledge are important factors in explaining levels of concern. The report also found that adults with more education are more likely to be alarmed and concerned about climate change, with those who scored 90 or above on a 100-point Index of Civic Scientific Literacy more likely to be alarmed or concerned than less knowledgeable adults.
Still of that number, 12% of those who were highly literate scientifically were still either dismissive or doubtful about climate change. Politics also played a role, with nearly half of liberal Democrats alarmed or concerned compared with 0% of conservative Republicans. What a shock.
“There are clearly overlapping levels of concern among partisans of both political parties,” Miller said. “But for some individuals, partisan loyalties may be helpful in making sense of an otherwise complicated issue.”
Considering the impact of climate change on future generations, you would be forgiven for thinking than parents of minor children would be more concerned about the issue than young adults without minor children, but Miller said this wasn’t the case.
“Not so,” Miller noted. “Generation X adults without minor children were slightly more alarmed about climate change than were parents. The difference is small, but it is in the opposite direction than we expected.”
“Climate change is an extremely complex issue, and many Generation X adults do not see it as an immediate problem that they need to address.”
Oh. Brilliant. Thanks Dad!