Generation X on Global Warming: Whatever.
According to The Generation X Report, based on the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, the demographic group born between 1961 and 1981 is even less concerned about climate issues than they were two years ago. The group is “uninformed about the causes, unconcerned about the potential dangers, and doubt it is happening,” writes Hank Campbell on the blog Science 2.0.
“Even with most of the country mired in a historic drought, a spate of storms that left millions without power in the mid-Atlantic, and seemingly more frequent natural disasters, people have better things to worry about than global warming, according to a new study of Generation X-ers,” writes Jason Koebler of USNews.
“Why the drop? Study author and University of Michigan professor Jon Miller says that climate change is a complex issue that requires a lot of time to fully understand. It also isn't likely to start meaningfully affecting people's lives for many years, when Generation X will have died out.”
To paraphrase 1992’s Teen Talk Barbie, “Science is hard.”
Says Miller: "You don't have to know a lot of biology to know what you think about abortion, and if you lose your job, you're going to be concerned with the economy. Questions like stem cells, climate change, and nuclear power are different. Without some level of scientific understanding, you can't get into them. If each season was progressively a little bit warmer, people might be able to more easily understand climate change, but if it's perturbed, it's hard for people to grasp. I'm not sure common sense alone will ever carry the day on this. The pattern is not likely to be consistent."
The good news? Miller says that the ambivalence is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as politicians take the long view. (Oops.) According to the study, just 10 percent of respondents are "doubtful" or "dismissive" about climate change. Most are simply "disengaged."
Image by iStock/stockerman
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”