Opinions on climate change appear to be influenced by local experience, and older individuals are more likely to care, a new study finds.
A paper by Stetson University’s Jason M. Evans has revealed surprising results by probing the obvious. The study explored the change in public opinion on environmental issues by focusing on the relationship between long- and short-term droughts and their influence on local opinion.
By discovering that individuals subject to short-term droughts are more concerned with the prospect of future droughts, the study was instructive only insofar as confirming the age-old suspicion that people learn from experience.
However, the finding that “older individuals were significantly more likely to believe that local drought risk was increasing” is a novel one, and goes against common conception of “the age effect,” known simply as the effect of age, on environmental issues.
The perceptive faculties of the elderly are not commonly praised among researchers of public opinion on environmental issues. Multiple studies have noted an inverse relationship between environmental concern and age, but exposure to the perceived effects of climate change now seem to be a crucial variable, as Evans expressed in a recent PR Newswire report:
“We believe these findings may show older persons are noticing droughts progressively getting worse over their lifetime, which research has shown to be true,” Evans said. “They believe these droughts will continue to get worse due to global warming.”
The conception of young people to be more engaged, more active, and more idealistic than their seniors has previously been debunked by other studies finding that active concern for the environment has decreased amongst young people in the period 1976-2008.
A remarkable difference between previous generations and the current is the shift from activism to slacktivism. Letter-writing has devolved to tweeting, banners have been replaced by Facebook statuses, and demonstrations have been substituted by online petitions. The new generation of political activism is just as loud as it is lazy.