Generation X Doesn’t Care About Climate Change

By Amir Khan on July 18, 2012 10:30 AM EDT

Global Warming
Even though much of the United States is suffering though record-breaking heat waves, the majority of Generation X -- a term used to describe the generation of people born between the early 1960s and early 1980s -- are "surprisingly unconcerned" about climate change and global warming, according to a new report by the University of Michigan. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Even though much of the United States is suffering though record-breaking heat waves, the majority of Generation X -- a term used to describe the generation of people born between the early 1960s and early 1980s -- are "surprisingly unconcerned" about climate change and global warming, according to a new report by the University of Michigan.

Titled "The Generation X Report," researchers found that many Gen X'ers are uninformed about the causes of climate change and are unconcerned about the its effects and the potential dangers that come with it.

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"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," Jon Miller, author of the report, said in a statement.

The report is the fourth in a series that compares Generation X's attitude about climate change in 2009 and 2011 and describes their level of concern.

"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," 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."

Five percent said they were alarmed about climate change and another 18 percent said they were concerned. However, 66 percent said they aren't sure if climate change is happening and 10 percent said they don't believe climate change is occurring.

"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."

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and ozone, trap heat in the atmosphere and act as a blanket, raising temperatures and causing climate change. Global temperature increases could affect sea levels, crops and animal habitats. Scientists expect heat waves, cold snaps, hurricanes and other extreme weather events to increase as temperatures increase, according to EPA officials.

Since January 1, the U.S. has set more than 40,000 daily high record temperatures compared to only 6,000 record lows. Over the last century, the records were set almost equally, but that has changed over the past few years.

The record heat, droughts and early snowmelt all combined to set the stage for the deadly wildfires raging across the Midwest. And if it's any indication, we can expect more of that in the coming years." This is what global warming is like, and we'll see more of this as we go into the future," according to Jerry Meehl, a climate extreme expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Miller said the report makes it clear that the younger generation is going to have to fix the problem, as Generation X is unwilling to.

"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," he said. "These results will not give great comfort to either those deeply concerned about climate issues or those who are dismissive of the issue."

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