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Friday September 20 General

How climate change is influencing choices of U.S. youth – new research

  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Gen Z Americans want to work for employers committed to tackling climate change
  • Majority (80%) would support U.S. companies adopting renewable energy in place of fossil fuels, with two in five (40%) believing they should be using 100% clean energy already
  • Next generation calls for greater investment in high speed rail as two-thirds (66%) would support short haul flights being replaced with cleaner alternatives, even if it would lengthen their journey


September 20th, 2019 – Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Gen Z Americans want to work for employers committed to tackling climate change – the equivalent of 24.8 million employees in the workforce.

This is according to new research released today from international non-profit, The Climate Group, which surveyed over 1,000 16 to 24 year olds across the U.S. to find out their views on climate change and how it will affect their future choices.

The results – released ahead of today’s Global Climate Strike and prefacing next week’s gathering of global leaders for Climate Week NYC run by The Climate Group (September 23rd - 29th) – reveal a unified message that crosses state and party lines: national business and political leaders need to do more now. Despite recent studies showing political division in the U.S. over views on climate change , the same might not be true for young people, as the findings show similar opinions are held among survey respondents in Democratic and Republican states. Three in four young people (77%) feel that climate change is an important issue that needs to be solved, with almost equal results for Democratic and Republican states (80% vs 76%).

Youth Survey - State Views

With the U.S. federal government actively rolling back pro climate policies, for most young people, the bulk of responsibility to solve the climate crisis rests on the shoulders of big U.S. businesses and state governments alike (60% for big businesses vs 69% for state governments).

An overwhelming majority (80%) support U.S. companies adopting renewable energy in place of fossil fuels, with two in five (40%) believing they should be using 100% clean energy already. 41% think the switch needs to be made by 2030 at the latest. This is pertinent given a recent Wood Mackenzie study which estimated that only 5% of Fortune 1000 U.S. businesses’ power has been committed to renewable sourcing. On top of this, 61 American businesses have so far joined The Climate Group’s global renewable electricity program, RE100, run in partnership with CDP, meaning hundreds of the largest businesses across the country have yet to commit to 100% renewable power. Filling this gap represents a huge clean investment and economic growth opportunity.

Youth Survey - Renewables

Within the transport sector, two-thirds (66%) of young people would support short haul flights being replaced with cleaner alternatives, such as high-speed rail, even if it would lengthen their journey, aligning with the opinions of teenage activist Greta Thunberg who is leading the ‘flight shame’ movement. With the U.S. lagging behind Europe and Asia for alternative high-speed rail options, the results highlight clear demand from the next generation for greater investment in cleaner transport infrastructure across the U.S.

Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, which annually hosts Climate Week NYC, said:

"We need wholescale changes to economies and infrastructure to make pro climate choices the new normal. It is in the interests of every business and government to sit up and listen to the next generation of workers and voters.

"We know through our initiatives for business on renewables, electric vehicles, and smart efficient energy and work with state and regional governments that good progress is being made in the U.S., but more needs to be done at a greater pace and scale. This year’s Climate Week NYC will provide a timely opportunity for businesses and political leaders to collectively discuss and agree what needs to be done over the next ten years to stop global heating in its tracks."

The survey also shows that climate-friendly choices are not always the most popular option. When presented with the prospect of a job offer from a company not committed to the environment, opinions are divided. 46% would accept, 39% are on the fence and 15% would definitely reject it, suggesting other factors could be at play, such as a scarcity of climate-friendly jobs, competition in the market and financial pressures.

Opinions on electric vehicles (EVs) also paint a complicated picture. Nearly one in five (16%) of those in the market to buy a car in the next five years would like it to be fully electric or plug-in hybrid. While this figure is significantly higher than the EV plug-in market share of 1.8% in the U.S. , many (65%) would still opt for gasoline cars, despite the same number (65%) feeling worried about the health impact of air pollution caused by local traffic. Given EVs have such a small market share in the U.S., the results suggest that governments and industry could do more to make EVs a viable option for young people, but more research is needed in this area.

For the first time, Climate Week NYC will be partnering this year with Global Citizen to host a Youth and Activism program to highlight the global leadership of young people and their influence on climate action. Alexandria Villaseñor, 14-year-old climate activist and Founder of Earth Uprising and Fridays for Future, will be speaking at The Climate Decade event at The Hub during Climate Week NYC on Wednesday, September 25th, alongside government ministers and business chiefs. Ahead of the strikes, she said:

"My generation has brought climate action into the spotlight this year because we know it will affect us the most. We're done waiting for our leaders to act and although we can't vote, we're making our voices heard by striking and taking direct action to protect our futures. Our movement has grown so big and so fast that we're approaching a tipping point. Soon, world leaders won't be able to avoid taking climate action because we'll be in the streets, in the courts and in their offices until they do!"

Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington state and co-chair of The Under2 Coalition, a group of ambitious state and regional governments committed to climate action, said:

"Young people around the world know their future is at stake if we don’t act now on climate. They are demanding to be heard and their leadership is shifting the debate and compelling action. We are all accountable to these voices and are responsible for protecting the world they will inherit."

For media interviews please email: Katie Rogers or media@theclimategroup.org


The Climate Group commissioned Populus to undertake market research among 1,024 16 to 24-year olds in the U.S. The data included quotas by age, gender, and region, and was weighted to be nationally representative. The online research was conducted between August 23rd-28th 2019. Data tables are available on request and will be published online.

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