Skip to main content

Young people are trusting and championing science

By Karin Gustafsson.

By taking to the streets, youth across the globe have publicly and loudly shown a strong distrust toward our political representatives’ capacity and willingness to address the current climate crisis. However, besides their demand for politicians and the adult generation to “listen to the science”, we know very little about these environmentally active youths’ relation to and potential trust in science. 

In my most recent study, we learned how science is highly trusted by these environmentally active young people in Sweden. Science is understood as the institution that can and should be responsible for telling the truth about tackling climate change. Thus, scientists are seen as capable of helping us all learn about the climate crisis and what to do about it.  

My study is based on Fridays for Future (FFF) in the movement’s origin country of Sweden. FFF Sweden has been studied together with Sweden’s oldest and still largest nongovernmental environmental youth organization Fältbiologerna, which literally translates as the (Swedish) Field Biologists. 

I focused my study on FFF Sweden’s and Fältbiologerna’s Facebook posts between 2019 and 2022. These posts offer a snapshot of the discourses on science–public relations and youths’ trust in science that FFF Sweden and Fältbiologerna take part in, contribute to, and make use of. Thus, the study lets us know how young people understand science's role in the context of climate change, as well as how they see their relation to science, and with that, their one role in dealing with the climate crisis.

I found that young people see themselves as potential activists and science champions who want to impact the discourse on climate change and the management of the climate crisis. Intriguingly, the youths also show themselves as capable of collaborating with science to enhance our knowledge of the climate crisis.  

The demand to “listen to the science” should be understood as a shorthand description of a division of labor between scientists and the youth. While scientists are trusted to provide truthful and relevant knowledge for policy-makers and wider society, the youths self-identify as holding both the responsibility of contributing to the understanding of the climate crisis and of encouraging climate action through activism.

This trust in science offers scientists both credibility and authority in the climate discourse. At the same time, this trustful relationship empowers the youths as science champions and knowledge producers. The findings in the study help us understand better this crucial motivation and identity of environmental active youth. 

Read the original article: Is science to be trusted? How environmentally active youths relate to science in social media


Karin M. Gustafsson is an Associate Professor in Sociology, at the Environmental Sociology Section, at the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Social Science, Örebro University. Her research primarily focuses on climate change and biodiversity issues in the fields of environmental sociology, sociology of knowledge, and science and technology studies. Besides her research on science-public relations, she is also currently studying the role of social science when transforming societies towards sustainability.