Older Germans 'more knowledgeable' about climate change than young people

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
Older Germans 'more knowledgeable' about climate change than young people
A seven-year-old waters the vegetables in a garden bed as her grandparents look on. Elders tend to have a better understanding of climate change than young people in Germany, a new study finds. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Thissen

Germans over the age of 50 are better informed about climate change than younger generations, a new survey has found.


The results of a European Investment Bank (EIB) survey, published Monday, found that Germans over 50 tend to know more than younger generations when it comes to the causes and consequences of climate change and solutions to address it.

That finding in Germany aligned with a trend seen across Europe: Across the 27 EU member states, adults over 30 scored higher than the younger generations.

The survey was taken by 30,000 respondents across 35 countries, including all 27 EU member states as well as the UK, China, the USA, Canada, India and a few other countries.

Residents of EU member states tended to score higher than those in the US.

Considering respondents’ knowledge of the topic, Germany ranked 10th out of the EU 27, scoring just above the EU average – just below Austria and ahead of The Netherlands. Finland ranked the highest, followed by Luxembourg and Sweden.

German elders understand climate change better

Of course topical knowledge varies between different sections of the population. But perhaps the most interesting division was between the generations, with Germans aged 50 or above scoring well ahead of the younger generations in their ability to understand climate change.

Additionally respondents aged 20-29 in Germany scored lower than people over 30.

This result joins a growing body of evidence that refutes a commonly held belief that young people are more informed about climate change. Another recent study found that one in five 12 to 19-year-old German school children had never heard of climate change.

Taken together, these studies suggest that education about climate change may be lacking in Germany and across Europe.

Which climate impacts did Germans overlook the most?

Compared to understanding the causes and consequences, Germans scored significantly lower on a section of the survey in which they had to identify actions that can help mitigate climate change.


Most Germans correctly identified recycling products and using public transportation instead of driving a personal car as positive actions. 

solar and coal power

A coal-powered lignite- power plant can be seen behind the modules of the Witznitz energy park. Replacing coal and oil power with solar and wind energy sources is among Germany's biggest energy transition challenges. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

But only 53 percent of Germans identified better insulation in buildings as being a climate solution, for example. According to Germany’s Climate Change Act (Klimaschutzgesetz), emissions from the building sector should drop by two-thirds – from 1990 levels – by 2030. Better insulation in buildings and more energy efficient heating systems, like heat-pumps, are critical for doing so.

READ ALSO: Who can apply for Germany's new renewable heating grants for homes?

Only half of German respondents were aware that buying new clothes less frequently could lessen one’s climate impacts, and only 43 percent recognised reducing speed limits as a valid solution.

Most Germans were unaware of the significant impact that digital usage has on the climate. The rapid expansion of AI use, for example, is ramping up energy demand. Researchers have warned that AI alone could consume as much energy as the Netherlands by 2027.

Why is the European Investment Bank funding a climate knowledge survey?

Addressing the survey results, EIB Vice-President Nicola Beer said: “Climate change can only be limited if we’re all empowered to fight it.

"In our adaptation and mitigation efforts, knowledge is one of our most powerful assets.”

A statement by the EIB pointed out that, as the EU's financing arm, the EIB invests in Germany's green transition. One recent example is financing an upgrade of the power grid in Thuringia, so that it can transport power from wind farms to homes.


But, as with most large banks, not all of the EIB’s investments have been positive for the environment. Funds from the EIB were used by Volkswagen to develop the engine at the heart of the Dieselgate scandal, for example.

READ ALSO: Dieselgate - Volkswagen faces first mass lawsuit in Germany

That said, it does appear the EIB is taking steps to move money in the right direction: In 2019 EIB Group committed to investing €1 trillion toward climate action projects from 2021 to 2030.



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