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G20 youth demand swift climate action in U.N. poll powered by video games | TheHill – The Hill


Young residents of the world’s richest, most powerful nations paused their mobile gaming devices to voice their support for bold climate action in their countries — urging the deployment of electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies in a new poll released by the United Nations. 

Some 302,000 individuals ages 14-17 made their opinions heard in the G20 Peoples’ Climate Vote, which surveyed more than 689,000 people from October 2020 through June 2021 across Group of 20 (G20) member nations. And to reach as broad a population as possible, the researchers recruited respondents by placing advertisements in mobile gaming networks.

Cassie Flynn, lead author and strategic advisor to the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), told The Hill she had been contemplating how to reach such a diverse sample population in a low-pressure environment.

“And I looked up around me on the subway, and every single person was on their phone. Every single one,” she said, noting that the person next to her was playing Angry Birds.

Ultimately, Flynn said she and her team created ads in 19 languages that appeared across popular gaming platforms — ranging from apps that would attract a younger audience to crossword puzzles that might attract older participants.

With such a widespread pool, Flynn said they were able to observe clear differences in opinion among age groups — disparities that the authors said are “suggestive of coming shifts in public demand.”

Their results, compiled with the University of Oxford, were published ahead of next weekend’s G20 Summit in Rome and next week’s U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

The widest generational gap they discovered was in Australia and the U.S., where “under-18s” ranked 10 percentage points higher than adult respondents regarding general recognition of the climate emergency. That gap was at its greatest when it came to support for electric vehicles and renewable energy — 13 percentage points in the U.S. for electric vehicles, and 10 percentage points for renewable energy. 

Members of the G20 generated about 75 percent of global emissions and account for more than 80 percent of the global GDP, as well as 60 percent of the world’s population, the authors said.

“What the G20 does on climate change is going to affect the entire world for every generation to come,” Flynn said.

The G20 countries included in the survey were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. — every member except the European Union and China.

China, according to Flynn, was not included due to purely technical reasons, and the UNDP is working with a Chinese polling agency to compile a full data set, which will launch next year.

In some countries, according to the authors, this is the first time that the voices of young people are being heard on climate change — and many of these individuals will be of voting age in just a few years. As such, the researchers argued that the survey could provide significant value in forecasting where public opinion is headed on climate policy, while indicating where stronger public education efforts are needed.

Adults were more in favor of funding green businesses and jobs than the younger cohort was, with the most support coming from adults in the U.K. (74 percent), followed by Australia, Canada and Germany (all 68 percent). Among the under-18s, support was the highest in Australia (73 percent). 

More adults than young people also demanded that companies pay for the pollution they produced — a finding that surprised the authors, and which they said indicated a need for more public education. The findings were most severe in Indonesia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, where less than a third of under-18s wanted polluters to pay.

For both adults and under-18s, curbing the use of fossil fuels was a popular policy in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France and Germany, but had much lower levels of support elsewhere — with just 30 percent of adults and Saudi Arabia and India in favor of this policy.  

The gaps between generations, which varied among countries and among issues, could signal the potential of future voters to “usher in a new urgency and a new way of thinking on climate change in many countries that we haven’t yet seen really step up,” Flynn said.

Homing in on young Americans in particular, Flynn stressed that 74 percent of those surveyed were in favor of clean energy, 73 percent wanted to conserve forests and land and 72 percent wanted climate friendly farming.

“It’s all in the 70s — and then in the adults, it’s all in the 60s,” she said. 

Such responses, Flynn continued, show that there is “overwhelming support” for many of the proposals currently being cut from the reconciliation bill in Congress.

“This gives us particular insights and particular momentum to say, well, wait a minute here, people do want climate action,” Flynn said. “They want these bold policies, they want the government to be addressing this crisis — despite these battles that we see on the Hill.”


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