Generation X is surprisingly unconcerned about climate change

Jul 18, 2012 by Diane Swanbrow

(Phys.org) -- As the nation suffers through a summer of record-shattering heat, a University of Michigan report finds that Generation X is lukewarm about climate change—uninformed about the causes and unconcerned about the potential dangers.

"Most Generation Xers 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 Report."

The new report, the fourth in a continuing series, compares Gen X attitudes about climate change in 2009 and 2011, and describes the levels of concern Gen Xers have about different aspects of climate change, as well as their sources of information on the subject.

"We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X expressed about climate change," Miller said. "In 2009, about 22 percent said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16 percent said they did so."

Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 Gen Xers—those born between 1961 and 1981, and now between 32 and 52 years of age.

Only about 5 percent of those surveyed in 2011 were alarmed about climate change, and another 18 percent said they were concerned about it. But 66 percent said they aren't sure that global warming is happening, and about 10 percent 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."

Because climate change is such a complex issue, education and scientific knowledge are important factors in explaining levels of concern, Miller said. Adults with more education are more likely to be alarmed and concerned about climate change, he found. And those who scored 90 or above on a 100-point Index of Civic Scientific Literacy also were significantly more likely to be alarmed or concerned than less knowledgeable adults. Still, 12 percent of those who were highly literate scientifically were either dismissive or doubtful about climate change, Miller found. He also found that partisan affiliations predicted attitudes, with nearly half of liberal Democrats alarmed or concerned compared with zero percent of conservative Republicans.

"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."

Given the greater anticipated impact of climate change on future generations, Miller expected that the parents of minor children would be more concerned about the issue than young adults without minor children.

"Not so," he said. "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."

Miller found that Gen X adults used a combination of information sources to obtain information on the complex issue of climate change, with talking to friends, co-workers and family members among the most common sources of information.

" is an extremely complex issue, and many Generation X adults do not see it as an immediate problem that they need to address," Miller said.

"The results of this report suggest that better educated young adults are more likely to recognize the importance of the problem, but that there is a broad awareness of the issue even though many adults prefer to focus on more immediate issues—jobs and schools for their children—than the needs of the next generation. These results will not give great comfort to either those deeply concerned about climate issues or those who are dismissive of the issue."

Explore further: 93 percent of mining, oil and gas, logging, agriculture developments involve inhabited land

More information: The full report in online at: bit.ly/GenXReport0712

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terry_conklin_5
1 / 5 (1) Jul 18, 2012
I'm older than Gen X but I see their point. The terms: "climate Change" and "Global Warming" are used too often to bundle a whole set of theories into a neat package to be accepted or (heaven forbid) denied. Like all our weather, individuals can do nothing to change it and over a given person's lifetime, it doesn't really matter. The earth will shake us off one day anyway like a flea. In the meantime, we as humans might better concentrate on doing the right thing every day as we live our lives. That includes being frugal with resources, not polluting, not treating animals as less worthy than ourselves, etc. How many of you would be willing to give up on some medical marvel if it meant we didn't imprison and torture a chimp, rabbit, rat or other "test subject" to develop it? Climate change is a small problem compared to our inhumanity.
EricNoot
3 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2012
I am a Gen Xer, am a parent of minor children, am very concerned with the climate change. I can read up on the subject at work, however, my wife has very little time to follow much of anything, let alone something as complicated as climate change. So, I CAN see how parents my age are disconnected with the issue! They barely feel like what they have access to is under their control as is.
Bewia
1 / 5 (3) Jul 19, 2012
If scientists can ignore the potential of cold fusion for twenty years, then I don't see nothing strange, when laymans ignore the global warming too - they're both following their private interests only. Whereas the contemporary economical crisis is caused with this ignorance too, I'm afraid, it will escalate this disinterest even more, because at times of deficit the protection of life environment is usually first on the list of savings.
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2012
There was a major study done that concluded the more you know about climate, the more skeptical you are about the climate change cult.

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