Photo caption: Pictured at the call for entries for BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2023 is Darcy MacGillivray.
52% of students who responded to a survey carried out at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2023 are worried or sad about climate change, while 8% say it makes them angry. More than 500 students took part in the survey by BT Ireland and Global Action Plan, which found that concern for the consequences of global warming is widespread among the next generation of Irish scientists and technologists.
However, despite their alarm, it appears Ireland’s ‘Young Scientists’ remain optimistic with a massive 91% saying they believe that science and technology can help with solving the climate crisis. 72% say that they’ve personally taken action in the past six months to help tackle the crisis, while more than 71% say that their scientific knowledge makes them more confident about the issue of climate change.
Speaking about the findings of the survey, Priscilla O’Regan, Head of Communications at BT Ireland said: “It’s vital that young people’s voices are heard when it comes to one of most pressing issues facing the world. We’ve seen from the students’ projects at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition that climate change and environmental issues are top of mind for many students. This survey by BT Ireland and Global Action Plan indicates that many young people are worried and feel powerless in the face of global warming.”
“However, it is heartening that our young scientists are optimistic that the fruits of human ingenuity will help provide answers, either in the form of new technologies or new insights into behavioural and societal change.”
The eight-question survey was sent to more than 1,100 finalists in the 2023 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, and 515 students took part. The youngest respondents were 11 and the eldest 18 years old, with almost two-thirds of respondents identifying as female and one-third identifying as male.
Hans Zomer, CEO of Global Action Plan, the environmental organisation that partnered with BT Ireland on the survey, commented, “One of the striking features of the survey results is that young people are determined to find solutions to the climate crisis. While many have negative feelings about the situation, the vast majority of respondents are optimistic that we can find solutions to the climate crisis and are already taking actions in their own lives.”
“When asked what they are doing to help fight climate change, young people listed actions they have influence on, such as reducing waste and walking/cycling to school, and actions where they use their voice and influence, such as asking the adults in their lives to reduce energy consumption. What this shows is that young people are aware that their actions count, and that they want to contribute to the solutions”.
The survey results:
1 Anger, hopelessness but also determination
In their responses, a high proportion of the 515 of the 1,100 contestants in the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS indicated that they feel sad and angry about climate change: 52% said they felt sad or worried, 8% said climate change made them angry, 5% indicated they felt “ignored” and a further 5% experienced a sense of hopelessness. Importantly, 16% of respondents said that global warming made them more “determined” to take action.
Girls were more “sad or worried” than boys, with 59% of girls in this category, versus 38% of boys. Girls were also more likely than boys to feel “ignored” (14% versus 7%), and less likely to feel “determined” (14% versus 21%).
The feeling of sadness and worry did not differ greatly with age. However, 13-year-olds and 18-year-olds were much more likely to feel “ignored” than the other respondents, with 13% of 13-year-olds and 17% of 18-year-olds choosing this answer.
2 Climate change is very serious
Respondents to the BT Ireland/Global Action Plan survey among BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition participants said that climate change is a very serious issue. Asked to rate seriousness of the issue on a scale from 1 to 10, students ranked it 8.75 on average.
45% of respondents gave the issue a maximum ‘seriousness’ score of 10, and 22% rated it at 9 out of 10.
Particularly girls found climate change very serious, with 52% of girls giving the issue a maximum 10 out of 10 on the scale. In contrast, only 30% of boys ranked climate change as the most serious.
3 A strong belief in the power of science
Unsurprisingly for participants in a science exhibition, respondents were very confident that science can help solve climate change: 91% of respondents said Yes to the question ‘Do you think we can help to solve the climate crisis using science and technology?’
When asked follow-up questions, many explained that they felt behavioural and social sciences were part of the solution, too.
71% of the respondents said that their knowledge of science makes them ‘more confident about the climate crisis’.
4 Students are not confident in their ability to affect global warming
When asked ‘who is the most responsible for tackling climate change?’, students listed the Government, the EU and the business world as the main actors.
Yet, 40% of the respondents listed “Me Personally” or “Everyone Needs To Do Their Bit” as the most important answer to this question.
5 Students are taking action
72% of respondents said that they had personally taken action in the past six months to help fight climate change. Among the actions undertaken by students were reducing waste and increasing recycling (67%), cutting down on use of plastics (52%), walking or cycling to school instead of getting a lift in the car (26%). Twenty-three percent of surveyed students also consider the carbon footprint of the food they buy, and have changed their eating habits.
The survey results also show that students are encouraging their parents to take positive action, including asking parents to install solar panels (20%), asking parents to insulate homes (20%), and asking parents to switch energy supplier (10%).
6 Important to focus on climate change and environment in schools
When asked if they think that it is important for climate change and environmental issues to be a focus area in the Irish school system, 91% of students said it was important, while 5% said it wasn’t.
Detailed survey results can be found below. If you have any further queries, require information, or would like to coordinate any interviews, please don’t hesitate to contact the following:
Hanover Communications for BTYSTE: email@example.com
Claire Regan: firstname.lastname@example.org / 086 2093536
Arlen Noonan: email@example.com / +353 1 582 5189
Heather Bruton: firstname.lastname@example.org / 083 459 8173
About Global Action Plan Ireland
Global Action Plan Ireland is an environmental organisation supporting sustainable communities across Ireland. Based in Ballymun, Global Action Plan aims to inspire people to become ‘change makers’ by equipping individuals and communities with knowledge and skills to develop solutions to the environmental and climate crises.
For more information, see www.globalactionplan.ie
BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile telecommunications and related secure digital products, solutions and services. We also provide managed telecommunications, security and network and IT infrastructure services to customers across 180 countries.
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