Young Australians overwhelmingly want to see immediate action on climate change but have little faith their leaders will do anything significant, a new survey suggests.
The survey from Foundations For Tomorrow, an initiative of the World Economic Forum and supported by AwareSuper, received 10,000 responses from Australians aged under 30.
Of these, 5,743 were obtained through a “comprehensive survey”, while another 5,222 were obtained using social media in order to access people on different incomes and from different locations.
Of the respondents, 93% said the government was not doing enough to address climate change. The vast majority had little faith in the nation’s business and political leadership to address it.
Nearly three in four said they would vote for or support political leaders taking bold action on climate change, but just 11% felt as though their vote actually mattered.
When it came to the private sector, 82% of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that private sector organisations should be held accountable for their environmental, social and corporate governance impact.
Beyond climate change, the report found two-thirds of young people were feeling increasingly anxious and uncertain about their future, reinforcing a well-documented trend among young people.
On the whole, young people ranked affordable housing as more important than having a job, with nearly three-quarters of those surveyed saying the average Australian did not have access to the basic support they needed.
Taylor Hawkins, the foundation’s managing director, said the survey showed young people were more politically engaged than ever but were increasingly “angry, frustrated and scared”.
“They are saying: we are practically screaming for change. We are practically screaming for climate action and it’s just not happening,” Hawkins said.
“Their voices aren’t translating into political action. Right now it’s not feeling like a traditional political system. What we’re seeing is that young people are withdrawing from traditional politics.”
Young people mobilising
Anjali Sharma was among a group of teenagers to successfully sue federal environment minister in May to establish that the government owed a duty of care to future generations on climate change.
Sharma, who has also participated in the recent wave of school strikes, said she was “not surprised” by the survey results, especially given the federal government announced in July it would appeal against the landmark legal judgment.
“It’s really clear that young people are so concerned about climate change they feel the need to take matters into their hands,” Sharma said. “People think the government isn’t doing enough on this issue – among many other issues – that’s why so many of us are taking to the streets to protest.”
The federal court is expected to hear the appeal in early October.
Richie Merzian, director of the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program, said the survey should be read in the context of others that had been released in recent weeks.
The result from the Foundations for Tomorrow survey adds weight to a YouGov poll by the Australian Conservation Foundation released on Monday, which found a majority of voters in every seat wanted more action on climate change.
“The ACF pool is shallow but wide. There are a few questions across every electorate. This is narrower and deeper in terms of particular demographic and a larger set of issues,” Merzian said.
“But the results are the same – that climate change is a key concern, particularly among young people, and it is more likely to shape how they vote and engagement politically.”
Cristina Talacko, chair of the Liberal and National party-aligned Coalition For Conservation, said the Coalition MPs she had been speaking to were aware of recent polling and “definitely take it seriously”.
“It doesn’t leave a shadow of doubt that they need to move faster with their climate policies and embracing a coherent framework,” Talacko said. “You can see in the youth vote, they’re quite keen to reach net zero before 2050. They don’t want to wait that long.”
Talacko added that the numbers have also put to rest the “myth” of a divide between cities and the regions on climate change.
“The truth is just looking at the numbers is incontrovertible. You can’t argue against it,” she said. “It used to be a popular stereotype that youth and business people in the cities were worried, but not the regions. Now it’s everyone.”