Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends
US & World

Generation X: Too cool to care about climate change?

Steven Cuevas/KPCC

In the early ‘90s, the burgeoning youth culture that came to be known as “Generation X” (due in large part to Douglas Copeland’s popular book of the same name) was typified as disenfranchised yet more open-minded and politically active than aging Baby Boomers, with a penchant for flannel shirts and grunge bands like Nirvana. But a new study from the University of Michigan reveals that members of Gen X—people born between the early 1960s and early 1980s—are “surprisingly unconcerned” about climate change issues, even as American swelters under a record-breaking heat wave this summeer.

As reported by, “The Generation X Report” surveyed about 4000 people between the ages of 32 and 52 and found that only 5 percent are “alarmed” and 18 percent are “concerned” about climate change issues.

"We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X adults expressed about climate change," said Jon D. Miller, author of the study in a statement. "In 2009, about 22 percent said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16 percent said they did so."

Even more surprising is the 66 percent of the respondents who said they weren’t sure climate change is even happening, with 10 percent saying it’s not occurring at all.

“This is an interesting and unexpected profile," Miller said. “Few issues engage a solid majority of adults in our busy and pluralistic society, but the climate issue appears to attract fewer committed activists—on either side—than I would have expected.”

If there’s any aspect of this report that would really get under the skin of even the most cynical Gen-Xer, is Miller’s allusion that it will require efforts of the younger and “better educated” Generation Y and Millennials who will have to save the day if there’s any hope of stabilizing climate change issues.

“These results will not give great comfort to either those deeply concerned about climate issues or those who are dismissive of the issue,” Miller added.

One can only wonder what the characters of seminal Generation X movie “Reality Bites” would say about climate change?