Why Is Generation X So Skeptical About Climate Change?
    By Hank Campbell | July 20th 2012 05:30 AM | 20 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    We just had Snowmageddon and then heat a heat wave in parts of the US. Local, short-term weather events are suddenly proof of long-term climate change once again, according to journalists and biased bloggers who claim to care about science.

    "Generation X", as marketing people call the generation after the Baby Boomers, aren't buying it, despite the fact that awareness campaigns about global warming have gone on for most of their lives.

    Some calibration of terms and therefore ages is in order.  The Baby Boom was 1946, after the soldiers from World War II came home from Europe and Japan.  Only decades later did the Baby Boomers become an entire 'generation' instead of a birthing blip, but generations are generally considered 20 years. The generation after the Baby Boomers were the 13th generation of 'Americans' but 13 is an unlucky number so they were called Generation X instead. Since the Baby Boom began in 1946 the next generation should have been 1966.  Oddly, the researchers in the current analysis consider Generation X from 1961 to 1981, which seems rather arbitrary and may impact the analysis.  Obviously, the problem with labels like 'generations' are that they are subjective and a hundred people are going to tell me I am wrong - it's no matter to me, given my birth year I could be the last Baby Boomer or the first Generation X or I could be a latecomer to Generation X.  But in this strange grouping Generation X listened to the Beatles rather than the actual Generation X band, which had Billy Idol and was named such because they were inspired by the book "Generation X", written about England's mod subculture of 1964, people who were clearly Baby Boomers.

    Confused?  Yeah, social designations are both arbitrary and relative so it's safe to believe anything you want. Don't read much into the label but keep the dates in mind.

    First, let's talk about their their conclusion in The Generation X Report, based on the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research; Generation X, they say, is lukewarm about warming - they are uninformed about the causes, unconcerned about the potential dangers and doubt it is happening.

    It isn't just the stupid people, 12% of those who aren't buying it are quite scientifically literate. This corresponds to other surveys which also found that as scientifically literacy went up, so did skepticism about global warming.   That larger study didn't just do the simple liberal or conservative (which is codespeak for Democrat and Republican to simplistic sociologists) correlation this new analysis did. The new analysis found that 50% of liberals were very concerned about global warming while 0% of conservatives were.  The conservatives are Flat Earth Holocaust Denying Baby Killers, right?  Well, no, unless 50% of Democrats are the same thing. Partisans who are using science to drum up votes will spin it that way, the same way they manage to spin that 39% of the right and 30% of the left deny evolution so therefore only the right is anti-science about biology.(1)
    In the larger Social Science Research Network Study I mentioned above, the picture between left and right was more nuanced. They had questions which were designed to measure independence.  People who were more independent thinkers tended to be more conservative and also more skeptical about global warming.  Basically, if you are a liberal, you are more trained to obey experts and elites.

    Don't like that phrasing?  I know how you vote.

    Other studies back that up, though. 'Global warming' has made a comeback in the media, thanks to scientifically illiterate journalists who were waiting for a heat wave to yell 'SEE?  DO YOU BELIEVE NOW?!?! (as evidence: TIME and the Associated Press) but it was never scientifically correct and was slowly phased out of the science discourse and replaced with 'climate change'. What happened when people were surveyed using both terms, the scientifically illiterate one and the more correct one?  Acceptance went from 44% to over 60% for Republicans but when it came to Democrats, 86% believed no matter what term was used. They believed what the question told them they were supposed to believe and you could have written 'Smurfs are causing the planet to warm and it is caused by man's effect on the environment' and they would have checked that True box.  That isn't being smarter than the other side, it is being intellectual sheep.

    Does this mean Generation X is more intellectually independent than prior or more recent generations?  There is no evidence for that.  Scientific literacy is growing, no matter how much self-loathing you read in mainstream media about how stupid people are.  Adult science literacy has tripled since I graduated college.

    What might explain it?  Media fatigue is a reasonable answer.  Generation X grew up being fed the myth that DDT gives people cancer and alar on apples too.  Oat bran was a miracle cereal and then psyllium was the go-to product.  Global warming came after the Population Bomb and a new Ice Age.  Bacon and eggs caused heart attacks. It had to be true, they said so in an episode of "Quantum Leap".

    Generation X.  We don't want to give up our sweet rides but at least we care more about global warming than our kids.  Oh, and we are skeptics.  Credit: Shutterstock

    As a result of being inundated for most of their lives by scare journalism, only 5% of people ages 32 to 52 are worried about climate change.   It isn't just the old coots not feeling any pressure to quit using an air conditioner so a bunch of Indian and Chinese people can.  Young people are even less interested in saving the environment than Generation X. And being a parent makes no difference, so it isn't like we can just appeal to letting future generations enjoy nature - people with young children were less likely to be worried about climate change than single people or childless couples in the new Generation X report.

    It also must be considered that as scientists became more politically one-sided, and more politically active, people became less inclined to believe scientists were being impartial. The world is also not made up solely of mainstream media and editors and journalists who control what people read, so if anti-GMO and anti-vaccine people on the left want confirmation bias, they can find it just as easily as anti-climate and anti-evolution people on the right can. 

    It isn't like there is an awareness problem.  Everyone is aware of climate change.  It may be there is an over-awareness problem, especially at a time when there is worldwide economic instability and, in America, rampant unemployment with looming tax increases that will make the situation for families even worse.  Our current policies and the need for media to hype shock stories are deadening the intellectual senses of the public who is increasingly more worried about next week. We no longer have the luxury of worrying about the world of 2100.


    (1) They ignore that a far great delta exists for the left when it comes to anti-vaccine and anti-GMO anti-science, anti-biology beliefs. There is a reason that overwhelmingly progress California has the highest pertussis instances since the pre-vaccine age; progressives don't accept science, other than it being another worldview.


    I've said it before but I will say it again; seen from outside the US, the US is all extreme right wing. The most extreme right here in socialist hell (Scandinavia) is not as right winged as your Democratic party.

    So I wonder if not this measurement of opinions about science makes any sense at all? I mean, it is definitely highly relativistic in the first place.

    If I am not mistaken, you have tried to communicate that political stand in the US doesn't make a difference really. Which then would be consistent with my claim that it is homogenously right winged (relative to say Scandinavia) anyways. Still, even with bigger differences in political standpoints than you find in the US, it is not sure that the relationship or trust in science reflect your political views.

    I would also still claim that there are no real disagreements on whether we experience global warming - it is the question of what causes it and what we should do about it that are debated.
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    It is relativistic but the US has a bias problem in both media and academia (there is no one party ruling those areas in Scandinavia) that tries to make blame one-sided - obviously, criticizing people for not believing in global warming makes little difference in global warming, people who disbelieve conserve energy responsibly as much as believers (so it isn't that people do not care about the environment) and global warming will happen whether anyone believes in it or not.

    From what I have seen of skeptics, they tend to be skeptical of the feedbacks, not drivers like CO2.  There is no hope for flat-out deniers.

    People don't simply deny science, scientists are still well-respected, but climate scientists are denied. And it isn't just people educated by political leaders.  While 97% of climate scientists accept that CO2 and its feedbacks will lead to the projected temperature increases often stated, lots of other scientists do not. Climate scientists have created a PR problem for themselves.
    America was settled by dissidents and a lot of that mindset remains. The vast majority of Americans have totally lost faith in the veracity of the dominant media. America's newspapers have lied their way to bankruptcy and the dominant TV networks have lost most of their clout.

    My impression is that Europe is populated by goosestepping lemmings.

    Gerhard Adam
    America was settled by dissidents and a lot of that mindset remains.
    That's a good one. ....
    Mundus vult decipi
    GenX are old enough and educated enough to have seen this scam before, we've seen the Global cooling of the 70s, the acid rain, the ozone hole, Global warming, and now Global climate change it's always the same thing "the sky is falling, if this small trend continues forever then we will all die. Send your money today!"

    The earth has been much warmer than this, much colder than this, and this trend is nothing new. You global warming kooks say that CO2 created by cars and smoke stacks is heating the planet and if it continues forever we will kill ourselves.

    If your argument was just we should recycle I think a lot of my generation are behind that, less packaging sounds good, conserve electricity that's a great idea, but Carbon credits and your CO2 reduction scams. Go stuff it!
    I'll give you that the planet got warmer, it isn't any longer, it's on a cooling trend again like it was in the 70s and it's been cooling for over a decade.
    The atmosphere is only 396 ppm CO2. That's only 0.039% of our atmosphere! Not all of that is even created or caused by humans. Co2 is plant food.

    That's not a great analogy. Sugar is food to humans but if you buy your child a Starbucks frappuccino every day, with 25 teaspoons of sugar in it, you are insane.

    I did acknowledge some media overload.  I grew up with the DDT-cancer hype, the population bomb, the ice age and then global warming.  Ozone and acid rain were solidly accepted and, to the credit of policy-makers, did not send us into any runaway price increases. Oddly, one of the solutions to global warming would be more ozone, though.  That's pretty funny.
    This is complete rubbish, Hank, and you know that. We have increased the CO2 by 40% and by 2080 or so, it will be doubled relatively to pre-industrial levels....

    If the amount of sugar that an average human consumes each day – or, even more precisely, that he stores in the apartment and may consume – increased by the same fraction, it would bring an amazing improvement to the people's health, life expectancy, and strength, too. Most people in the world badly need a doubling of their inflow of nutrients. And even people in the rich countries may safely afford a big increase of sugar in their coffee. Sugar is the healthiest and least restricted among the main nutrients, sugars, proteins, and fats. It's close to pure energy.

    So even when you try to invent demagogic analogies, you end up saying complete nonsense.

    Even in your list of similar hypes, most of them have been bullshit. But when you mention the two scares that had a possible justification and true core, namely freons and acid rains, and it's no coincidence that they were the most modest entries in the list, their impact on the economy can't be compared to the regulation of carbon. To remove freons means that each person puts a different gas – and there were lots of alternatives – into 2 or 5 cans of deodorants that he or she buys every year (women use makeup and deodorants more often because they're ugly and they stink, a joke says). That's a totally negligible adjustment of a tiny sector of the industry, a complete detail, half a pound of gases a year per capita are modified. Similarly, to remove acid rains, one installs a few filters into 100 chimneys in each average nation. That's it. The filters collect a very small amount of junk.

    But what the greenhouse effect alarmists propose is to regulate carbon dioxide. It's the main harmless gas that - together with water vapor that they so far don't want to regulate - goes from any burning, any fermentation, almost any energy production, any construction building, any fart of farm animals, literally, it's everywhere. And it's unique: CO2 is really the only plants' carbon-rich nutrient. We're talking about one of the simplest and most vital molecules associated with life as well industry that can't be replaced and that humans produce or otherwise transfer in the amount of many tons every year for their lives to go on. To regulate carbon dioxide isn't a minor adjustment of a technology. It's an assault against the modern civilization; it's an assault against life itself. The right to regulate CO2 would mean the right to control the mankind. Your suggestion that because the end of freons didn't ruin the economy, the carbon dioxide regulation won't do it, either, is pure demagogy. It's a lie and you certainly know that.  The difference in the impact is at least 4 orders of magnitude.

    You just prefer to spread similar lies because you're a part of the problem, a part of the corrupt  pseudoscientific movement, and most of the Generation X realize that corrupt people like you simply suck. For example, when you suggest that the economic impact of the replacement of freons is the same as the economic impact of the ban or almost ban on carbon dioxide, you may graciously overlook that you are full of shit. But Generation X won't overlook that you are full of shit. Generation X aren't the same mental cripples and corrupt assholes you meet in the circles that want to regulate CO2, circles of obsessed hopeless imbeciles who are willing to okay arbitrary lie or nonsense as long as it is good for the "cause". The rest of Generation X actually has some integrity and intelligence, Hank. You're lucky that most of them don't really care because they think that global warming alarmism is a small problem, too. If they believed that you really had a chance to achieve what you claim to want to achieve, your mouth would already be disintegrated to hundreds of small pieces.
    You serious? We've had the hottest 12 month period in the history of record keeping and we're in the middle of the 4th worst drought in the history of record keeping and it's getting worse.

    We've had the hottest 12 month period in the history of record keeping
    Probably not.
    Never is a long time.
    Why don't you consider the explanation that Generation X is no longer childish but not yet senile so they actually recognize an obvious shit if they see one and they can't be brainwashed by cheap junk propaganda that only has the potential to brainwash immature and senile folks?... 

    The global warming hysteria was invented by baby boomers as they were overtaking America two or three decades ago so there are lots of people whose fates depend on the hysteria; and during the decades, they managed to brainwash the present teenagers, late teenagers, and children. But Generation X really avoided that because they were no longer "kids allowed to be brainwashed arbitrarily" when this rubbish was penetrating to the school system. Generation X has baby boomers as their parents and we know the limitations of these parents and their contemporaries.

    The Generation X members with kids are even more skeptical because they are more intensely exposed to the garbage that is implanted to their naive kids' heads - so they can appreciate how incredibly pushy yet stupid this whole system of ideas is when they hear the testimony from their kids. This propaganda has a crippling effect on the children and the mankind may still pay dearly for this time bomb (children indoctrinated as fanatical alarmists); however, it has the opposite effect on the parents who are no longer stupid enough to be fooled in similar cheap ways.

    Our president has re-articulated the view of Ian Plimer that the greatest danger is that the kids have already been indoctrinated: 

    The global warming hysteria is clearly fanned for political reasons - and more recently, private profit - but that doesn't mean that all people who oppose it do so for political reasons. There are lots of leftists who realize that the fearmongering is bogus. In the Czech Republic, it's a consensus across the political spectrum, from the right-wing parties to the unreformed communists. 

    The Green Party could choose to protest against this consensus but they were eliminated from the Parliament. Much like anti-nuclear and anti-GMO Luddites, extremist political garbage such as global warming alarmists have no room in the politics of a modern country.

    Well, I do not know about hysteria. The reinsurance industry has no reason to have a political opinion and definitely no economic interst of hysteria. Yet, they are adapting to climate change....

    It is real alright. Again, it is the question of why it is warming that keep feeding the heat of the debate...
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Yup, Bente, reinsurance companies have surely no economic interest to make their consumers think that they're threatened by something. Have you lost your mind? Fear is what decides about the bulk of profits in the insurance and reinsurance industry in general. ...

    The profit of any insurance or reinsurance company is calculable as the difference between the money that has to paid for damages minus the money collected from the concerned consumers - and the latter is proportional to the perceived risk. So the whole magic of profit in this industry is to make people worried more than the reality may justify. Because everyone in this industry knows that they can't really affect the number of robberies, fires, or hurricanes, they are trying to influence the opposite side of the balance - how much people are afraid. A dangerous global warming is the ultimate source of profit for them - because it comes with a nearly infinite fear and no actual damages whatsoever.

    Insurance and reinsurance industry is the only classical industry that benefit, however. Everyone else who benefits is an invention of the hysteria itself - fraudulent scientists, politicians that adopted this garbage as a way to be elected or reelected in the optics of a universal threat, traders with carbon indulgences, their secretaries, prostitutes who are distasteful enough to fuck with the carbon traders, and so on. Everyone else loses. Everyone who uses more energy than the amount of carbon indulgences he possesses or may distribute because he was chosen to be the holy prophet loses. Everyone who breathes loses. With carbon regulation, the economy and life are being choked and several people make profit - much like the company producing Zyklon B for the gas chambers - because the society wasn't cautious and fast enough in arresting or killing these dangerous lunatics before it was too late.

    I do not think you know the reinsurance business all that well, Luboš! ;-)

    Where do you think the reinsurance industry keep their capital? Think about it for a while...
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Bet you $20_ they aren't buying windmills.

    Most people's eyes glaze over at the mention of "reinsurance business". Mine sure did when I first read about it in Ross Gelbspan's 1997 "The Heat is On" book. I couldn't imagine why he would cite them as some sort of proof for the existence of damage caused by man-caused global warming. But later on, when I tried to find out exactly when Gelbspan became fixated on the issue and his claims that skeptic climate scientists are corrupted by fossil fuel industry money, I came across a rather curious meeting that Al Gore (or rather his aide Katie McGinty) had set up with reinsurance business people back in February of 1995, along with remarks Gore had made nearly one year prior about Franklin Nutter, President of the Reinsurance Association of America saying, "The insurance business is first in line to be affected by climate change. Global warming could bankrupt the industry."

    Mighty curious how a retired reporter, who had claimed at the time that he was unconcerned about global warming, would become privy to such detailed info about a business hardly anybody has heard of. Considering how Gore claims Gelbspan discovered 'leaked memos' that are smoking gun proof of skeptic scientists guilty associations with the fossil fuel industry, despite referring directly to those same memos in his own "Earth in the Balance" book four years prior to Gelbspan ever mentioning them ( ), there's a whole lot of questions to be asked about Gore, Gelbspan, Nutter, and the reinsurance industry........

    I am curious what kind of additional stupidity you will offer us, Bente. So where do reinsurance companies keep their capital? In paper boxes in Micronesia 5 centimeters above the sea level, waiting for it to be flooded by the evil (surely man-made) global warming and sea level rise? I expect something of the sort from you! ;-)...

    Reinsurance companies are insurance companies whose clients just happen to be lower-level, ordinary insurance companies. It's still true that the client - in this case an ordinary insurance company - pays a premium "in advance" which is accumulating for the situation that the insurance company will face losses - it will have to pay too much. Getting ready for payments of losses by the ordinary insurance companies caused by global warming is a welcome part of the reinsurance's income because these losses will never be paid back because there is nothing such as a harmful looming climate change.

    Reinsurance companies may make more (or some) profit from the AGW hysteria, unlike the low-tier insurance companies, because ordinary insurance companies expect individual clients and no one is stupid enough to get insured against global warming. On the other hand, the clients of reinsurance companies are insurance companies and their boards are overfilled with stupidity. It's always possible to help an institution behave in a really stupid way, so stupid that not even a stupid individual would do such a thing. So the reinsurance companies participate in this game and fill the boards of insurance companies with people who are ready and happy to spend lots of the insurance companies' money for reinsurance against non-existing future risks such as global warming.

    Otherwise it's completely irrelevant where a reinsurance company stores its capital. Every way of storing it has some advantages and disadvantages, risks or expected uniform decrease over time, and everyone, whether he is a worker, singer, or a reinsurance company, has similar choices. What is special about a reinsurance company (and others) is the way how it makes business, what it gets new money for and what it has to pay. And these flows are governed by the things I have explained above.
    Gerhard Adam
    OK, I'm going to call a time-out and ask the question about why I should believe this survey, when this other one contradicts everything being said.

    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%).
    Mundus vult decipi
    I don't think you should believe any survey.  The only times when people expect them to be right, like election polls, they have been overwhelmingly wrong.

    The Michigan survey only included 4000 Gen X'ers - over a 20 year age range it is hard to know how well the people were picked as a sample. The confidence interval can be anything they claim but that doesn't make it so.

    That same Pew study Grist uses in your comment also says most Americans prefer gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, banning guns and that we caused terrorism.  They also say most Americans want to ban nuclear power and subsize wind.  I would be skeptical.

    All those groups had majorities showing global warming was happening, just disagreement on cause and effect. Given the rather odd majorities for the rest of the questions, it looks suspicious.  I know a lot more Generation X'ers giving lip service to protecting the environment and doing nothing than I know caring and making a difference, like Grist tries to allege about everyone but old coots (who they also write should die off so gay marriage will be legal everywhere) - but even their numbers show a 17% drop in Gen X beliefs about warming in the last 5 years. 

    Gerhard Adam
    So, in other words, we don't actually know whether Generation X is more skeptical of climate change and why that should mean anything at all anyway.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I write about things as they release new studies.  I have no way to know what is apodictically evident. I discussed their conclusion and what the reasons might be, I also listed studies that disagreed and agreed with them. Studies are something to talk about but thinking there will be One True Survey To Rule Them All is not realistic.  It's why surveys are rubbish.