Some people are willing to have fewer children, give up using cars, and even adopt a vegan lifestyle in order to help the environment. However, giving up single-use plastics and growing more plants may be too extreme for them.
Based on a survey conducted in seven European countries, it appears that younger individuals are more open to making significant lifestyle changes in order to address the climate emergency compared to older generations. However, they may not be as persuaded by smaller actions.
According to the YouGov survey commissioned by the Guardian, the current economic decline is causing concern among young individuals about their future prospects. More than half of the respondents expressed worries about their ability to purchase a home within the next ten years.
In August, a survey was conducted in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. The results revealed that a significant number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 expressed worries about economic factors potentially hindering their decision to have children in the near future.
When asked about the sacrifices they would make to combat global warming, 28% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 and 30% of those between 25 and 34 stated that they would be open to having fewer children or were already considering it.
In contrast, older generations, who are mostly parents, had figures ranging from 19% to 13%. However, younger generations showed a greater preference for significant lifestyle changes compared to older respondents.
Individuals in the 18-24 age range were more inclined to forego cars, as evidenced by 54% stating they have either chosen or are considering to exclusively walk, bike, or use public transportation. This percentage is higher than the 45% of individuals aged 65 and above who share the same sentiment. Additionally, a larger proportion of the younger group, at 41%, would opt for an electric vehicle compared to only 21% of those in the older age bracket.
Although only 21% of individuals between the ages of 18 to 24 expressed a willingness to eliminate meat and dairy from their diet, this percentage is considerably higher than in older age groups (17% of those aged 55 to 64, and 13% of individuals over the age of 65).
The younger population showed a higher willingness to pay extra for air travel (30% of 18-24 year olds compared to approximately 22% of individuals over 55) and to exclusively purchase secondhand clothing (35% of 18-24 year olds and 38% of 24-34 year olds compared to 26% of those over 65 years old).
For minor alterations, like incorporating green areas in their residence, consuming only seasonal fruits and vegetables, or avoiding purchasing disposable plastics, older individuals were more inclined to express their willingness or have already implemented such changes.
In the same way, it was observed that younger age groups were more inclined to endorse extreme actions by the government in important policy domains compared to older age groups. However, they showed less positive attitudes towards gradual changes in public policy that could be seen as small steps.
A restriction on producing and selling cars with petrol and diesel engines would be favored by 46% of individuals aged 18-24 and 42% of those aged 25-34. In contrast, only 28% of individuals aged 55-64 and a mere 22% of respondents over the age of 65 would support this ban.
Younger generations (aged 18-24) showed stronger support for a government-enforced limit on meat and dairy consumption and a higher fuel tax compared to older individuals (65+ years old).
Restrictions imposed by the government on packaging, initiatives to increase tree planting, a levy for frequent flyers, and stringent measures to ensure energy-efficient homes were generally favored by older individuals or received similar levels of support.
The survey revealed that there is not much variation in age when it comes to worrying about the climate crisis and its potential impacts. Approximately 70% of all age groups, ranging from 18-24 to those above the age of 65, expressed either a high or moderate level of concern.
Most people in all age groups, ranging from 64% to 72%, believed that human activity is causing the world’s climate to change. The only exception was the 18- to 24-year-olds, who were slightly more inclined to say that the causes are not human-related.
About 43% of 18- to 24-year-olds across the continent said they worried the current economic situation would affect their ability to move out of the family home; 56% said it might mean they would be unable to buy a home, and 38% to have children.
The survey discovered that Europeans, regardless of their age or nationality, were more inclined to believe that the EU should handle decisions regarding addressing the climate emergency on behalf of its member countries, rather than each country making their own decisions independently.
Italians, Spaniards, and Britons were the most inclined to make lifestyle adjustments in order to combat the climate crisis. On the other hand, Germans, with a quarter of their population denying human impact on global warming, were the least likely to do so.
Among people of all ages, the most commonly adopted lifestyle modifications were the smaller ones. Adding greenery to their living space was widely favored, with 79% of British respondents and 66% of Germans stating they either already did or were willing to do so.
Approximately 66% of the participants expressed their readiness to consume vegetables and fruits that are currently in season. However, completely eliminating meat and dairy from their diet was the least favored option, with Italians being the most inclined at 27%.
The decision to stop driving divided Europeans. Approximately 58% of French citizens, 57% of Italians, and 56% of Germans expressed a willingness to solely rely on walking, cycling, or public transportation. However, only 40% of British individuals, 39% of Swedes, and 35% of Danes shared this sentiment.