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Youth Barometer 2021: Young people believe global solutions will be found for environmental problems

Finnish Youth Research Society & State Youth Council.

Young people believe climate change is a reality and they trust the science when it comes to climate issues: the number of young people who deny climate change adds up to only a few per cent. Young people also believe that globally sustainable solutions will be found for environmental problems. The proportion of respondents who agree with this statement has increased compared with 2016, when the question was asked previously in the Youth Barometer. This data is from the Youth Barometer 2021, which is on the themes of the climate and sustainable development.

Young people in Finland seem to be increasingly optimistic about the future and they also stand out as being less concerned in international comparisons. The respondents’ confidence in the future has grown with respect to the future of their own immediate surroundings, to that of Finland and the world. The proportion of respondents with a highly optimistic attitude is at a record high in all aspects measured. The data was collected in the first half of 2021, i.e. in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, but the pandemic doesn’t seem to have had any negative impact on the young people’s confidence in the future. Satisfaction with life had decreased compared with the period before the pandemic, but is at the same level as it was in 2016 and 2017.

Biodiversity of nature is an important value for young people

Young people’s feelings about the environment were also studied in the Barometer. The most common feeling related to the environment is that making sustainable choices makes you feel good. A new finding is that three quarters of young people say they feel sad about the loss of biodiversity and changes in their immediate surroundings. The biodiversity of nature is clearly an important value for young people, and this comes to light in several sections.

“The general discussion on concerns about climate change does not cover all young people’s experiences and feelings related to the environment. Therefore, in the future, we need to speak more about not only the nice feelings produced by doing good things for the environment, but also the sadness caused by changes in the living environment,” says Tomi Kiilakoski, Leading Senior Researcher at the Finnish Youth Research Network.

Voting and purchase decisions are the top influencing methods

Regarding solutions for climate problems, young people feel the most important methods are changes in production methods, knowledge and education, and new technological solutions. Young people consider voting, influencing with purchase decisions and volunteering in environmental organisations to be the most effective methods of influencing in environmental matters. The respondents’ attitude to climate strikes and direct action as effective methods of influencing varies. Those in general education, the youngest and those with left-wing views consider these methods to be the most effective. The majority of young people have changed their own consumer behaviour so that it is more environmentally friendly.

“Practical politics should be used to increase young people’s trust in the fact that combating climate change is being taken seriously. Although young people’s confidence in the future and solving climate problems has improved, much remains to be done in practice to combat the climate crisis. In environmental protection in particular, it is important that young people can get their voices heard in decision-making. It is a question of the right of future generations to have a habitable planet,” says Elisa Gebhard, Chair of the State Youth Council.

Young people support Finland’s active role in promoting peace

Regarding recent events in global politics and the war in Ukraine, a topical result in the Barometer is that peace is of key significance for young people. Young people’s opinions on the importance of Finland acting internationally to achieve various goals were also asked in the Barometer. The subjects asked about were selected from among the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Out of the seven goals selected, ensuring biodiversity was the third most important goal for young people, quality education for all was the second most important, but peace was clearly the most important of all the goals. Almost all of the respondents said that Finland’s actions to promote peace are at least quite important for them.

More information

Tomi Kiilakoski
Leading Senior Researcher, Finnish Youth Research Network
Tel. +358 40 504 6432

Elisa Gebhard
Chair, State Youth Council
Tel. +358 50 575 1723

Information on the publication

Youth Barometer 2021.

Tomi Kiilakoski (ed.) Doing things sustainably. Youth Barometer 2021
ISBN 978-952-372-032-9, (print), ISBN 978-952-372-033-6, (PDF), Finnish Youth Research Society’s publications ISSN 1799-9219, number 237, Field, Finnish Youth Research Network’s online publications, ISSN 1799-9227, number 169, Field, State Youth Council’s publications, ISSN 2489-9461 (print), no. 69, State Youth Council’s publications ISSN 2489-947X (online), number 69, print, 2022, EUR 28, 210 pages.

The publication is only available in Finnish.

Online version

The online version of the Youth Barometer (in Finnish) can be read free of charge here: (Visit an external site. The link opens in a new tab.).

Background information on the Youth Barometer

The Youth Barometer is an interview study that has been carried out annually since 1994. It studies young people aged 15–29 living in Finland. Thus, follow-up data on young peoples’ values and experiences already spans almost 30 years. The Youth Barometer has been published in cooperation by the State Youth Council and the Finnish Youth Research Network since 2004.

Some of the Youth Barometer’s questions remain the same every year, which enables the researchers to follow up on changes and observe trends over time. In addition to the permanent themes of work and education, themes that have been followed up for a long time in the Barometer include societal influencing, living, future and social life, and satisfaction with life and its various areas. In addition to the permanent themes, a new theme each year addresses topical issues related to young people and youth, for which comprehensive up-to-date information is required to support social decision-making.

The Youth Barometer 2021 is based on 1,900 telephone interviews which were carried out in early 2021.

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