Generation Y is more likely than older generations to support clean energy and environmental protection and to believe climate change is happening and is caused by human activity, according to new Pew polling and analysis. Generation X is close behind. Boomers aren’t so bad either. It’s the old folks, the so-called Silent Generation aged 66-83, that are the big problem.
There’s long been talk about how gay rights will continue to advance as homophobic old codgers die off. Looks like the push for a cleaner, greener society will get a boost from that same cohort replacement effect.
In setting America’s energy policy priorities, 71% of Millennials say we should focus on developing alternative energy sources rather than expanding oil, coal and natural gas exploration. Roughly the same number of Gen Xers (69%), and a broad majority of Boomers (60%) agree. But among Silents, opinion is more divided; 47% say alternative energy should be the priority, while 40% say the country should focus on expanding exploration and production of fossil fuels.
When it comes to environmental laws and regulations, the oldsters are even more out of touch. Clear majorities of Millenials, Gen-X-ers, and Boomers believe that environmental rules are worth the cost, but only 40 percent of Silents think so. (The question itself is misleading as it assumes there’s a significant cost to environmental regs even though they’ve consistently been shown to cost less than expected.)
Younger Americans are also more likely to support increased federal funding for renewable technologies, public transit, and incentives for hybrids and electric vehicles, and less likely to support offshore oil drilling and expanded nuclear power.
Currently, 64% of Millennials say they think the earth is getting warmer, a view shared by 59% of Xers and 55% of Silents and Boomers. And Millennials are almost twice as likely as Silents to say that global warming is caused mostly by human activity (43% vs. 22%).
Even Republican Millennials are more likely to grasp the threat of climate change than older Republicans:
About half (49%) of Millennial Republicans and Republican leaners say global warming is occurring, compared with 33% of Silent Republicans. There also is a generational gap among Republicans on whether warming is caused mostly by human activity (29% of Millennial Republicans say this compared with just 9% of Silent Republicans).
The younger you are, the more you’re going to get screwed by climate change. Many retirees might be loath to shake up the system in their twilight years, but younger people know the system’s already broken and needs an overhaul. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to wait for the clueless cohort to exit stage left; we need to act yesterday. For starters, younger voters need to come out to the polls in at least the same numbers as the fogies.
Class warfare has made a comeback. Is it time for some generational warfare too?
As long as we’re joking around about generational warfare, check this out: “Baby boomers are the worst for the climate.”
Get Grist in your inbox