Across the globe, students are increasingly aware of the existential threat posed by climate change and are rising up to demand urgent action from their leaders. From protests and strikes to social media campaigns, students are taking a stand and calling for meaningful climate policies to address the crisis. The results from this year’s Climate Action Survey show that students in our community share these high levels of concern about climate change, but see a lack of financial security and knowledge as barriers to them taking action.
The 2023 Climate Action Survey garnered a total of 4764 respondents, with 14 per cent of students and 41 per cent of staff taking part. Results from the survey will help our community to continue working towards achieving the goals of our Climate Action Framework, as well as allow the University to track progress towards its target of having net zero carbon emissions by 2040.
Key headlines: What you need to know
- 92 per cent of student respondents revealed they are experiencing some level of ‘climate worry’.
- 41 per cent of students feel that their personal contributions to tackling climate change are sufficient, with 16 per cent stating that they do more than is sufficient. However, students recognise more needs to be done on an individual basis, with 43 per cent stating that they do less than required.
- Students are motivated to make individual lifestyle changes such as using public transport more frequently, but face barriers when it comes to making those changes a reality.
- Bus remains the number one mode of transport for students to travel to the University.
- Students are commuting to campus more now than pre-Covid, taking 4.05 single trips each week by bus, compared to 3.72 pre-2020.
Eco-anxiety: A force for action
While the physical impact of the climate crisis is undoubtedly alarming, experts are now sounding the alarm about another, less visible consequence of the escalating emergency – its toll on people's mental health, particularly among the younger generations. ‘Eco-anxiety’ refers to intense feelings of stress, anxiety and worry about the current and future state of the environment and the impacts of climate change. 36 per cent of students who responded to the survey stated that they are “very worried” about climate change, while 19 per cent are “extremely worried”.
It’s easy for feelings of eco-anxiety to become paralysing, leading to inaction or avoidance of the issue. However, for many, the fear associated with climate change can be a powerful motivator to take action. You may feel a sense of urgency and a need to do something to mitigate the effects of climate change. This can lead to increased action, such as participating in protests, advocating for policy changes or making personal lifestyle changes to reduce your carbon footprint.
The University wants to empower all students to be changemakers for good and has worked on developing student curricula to better incorporate discussion of climate change and to develop sustainability skills across a range of disciplines. While 76 per cent of students acknowledge climate or sustainability education through their course in one form or another, it is clear that achieving any real progress against climate change requires ongoing commitment, collaboration and innovation from the University and its entire community. But how can you take action if you’re not a climate expert?
Here are some quick, easy-to-implement tips to help you get started:
Validate your emotions. If you're feeling worried or anxious about climate change, that's totally understandable. Acknowledge your feelings and use them in order to take action and make a difference.
Balance negative information with positive news. Share success stories about conservation projects or talk about the positive impact of small actions, like reducing your travel, eating less meat or buying fewer things.
Join a group or organisation. In order to address climate change, we need collective action and systemic change. The University has a number of extra-curricular opportunities available to allow community members to get involved in environmental initiatives and campaigns. These include student societies and an opportunity to complete a Climate Literacy course. Everyone has a role to play in addressing climate change beyond just changing personal behaviour; you are a consumer, an investor, a role model, an employee, a voter and a citizen. Joining a group can provide a sense of community and support while also making a positive impact.
Set practical goals as an individual and celebrate your success. Whether it's reducing your carbon footprint or joining a society to tackle change collectively, make sure to record and acknowledge your achievements.
Remember, every action counts – and together we can make a difference.
Learn more about what action the University is taking against climate change.