European youth are increasingly opting to stop driving and have less offspring in order to contribute to environmental conservation efforts.
Many people are open to the idea of having fewer children, reducing their dependence on cars, and even adopting a vegan lifestyle for the sake of the planet. However, giving up single-use plastics and increasing their plant consumption may be a challenge for some.
In Europe, a recent survey of seven countries suggests that younger individuals are more open to significant lifestyle modifications in order to address the climate emergency, compared to older generations. However, they appear to be less convinced by smaller actions.
According to the YouGov survey for the Guardian, the current economic decline is also affecting the aspirations of young individuals for the future. More than half of them expressed concerns about being unable 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 aged 18 to 24 believed that economic worries could discourage them from beginning a family in the same period.
When questioned about the sacrifices they were willing to make in order to combat global warming, 28% of individuals aged 18 to 24 and 30% of those aged 25 to 34 stated they would be open to having fewer children than they desired, or were already considering doing so.
Younger generations, who are mostly not yet parents, had percentages of between 19% and 13%, while older generations showed similar percentages. However, younger respondents also showed a higher preference for significant lifestyle changes compared to older respondents.
The majority of individuals aged 18-24 showed a greater readiness to forego cars, with 54% stating that they would solely rely on walking, biking, or public transportation – or have already made the switch. This stands in contrast to 45% of those aged 65 and above. Additionally, 41% of younger individuals expressed a willingness to transition to an electric car, compared to only 21% of those over 65 years old.
Out of the 18-24 age group, only 21% stated that they were open to or have already eliminated meat and dairy from their diet completely. This percentage was notably higher compared to the older age groups, with only 17% of 55-64-year-olds and 13% of individuals over the age of 65 expressing the same willingness.
The younger population showed a higher inclination towards paying a higher price for air travel (30% of individuals aged 18-24 compared to 22% of those over 55) and purchasing secondhand clothing (35% of 18-24-year-olds and 38% of 24-34-year-olds compared to 26% of individuals over 65 years old).
Older individuals were more inclined to express their willingness or previous implementation of minor modifications, such as incorporating greenery into their living space, consuming only seasonal fruits and vegetables, or avoiding the purchase of disposable plastics.
Likewise, it seems that younger age groups are more inclined to back extreme government actions in crucial policy domains compared to older generations. However, they are not as supportive as their predecessors towards gradual policy changes that may be seen as small.
A prohibition on the manufacturing and trade of petrol and diesel vehicles would receive backing from 46% of individuals aged 18 to 24 and 42% of those aged 25 to 34, compared to only 28% of individuals aged 55 to 64 and a mere 22% of respondents over the age of 65.
A government-imposed limit on the consumption of meat and dairy products likewise enjoyed significantly stronger support among younger than older generations (43% of 18- to 24-year-olds against 25% of people over the age of 65), as did a significantly higher fuel tax.
The older population generally showed more support or equal support for government efforts such as reducing packaging, planting trees, implementing a frequent-flyer tax, and enforcing energy-efficient homes.
The survey revealed that age did not play a significant role in levels of worry about the climate crisis and its potential impacts. Over 70% of all age groups, ranging from 18-24 to those over 65, reported being either very or moderately concerned.
Most people in every age group, ranging from 64% to 72%, believed that human activity is causing changes in the world’s climate. However, those between the ages of 18 to 24 were slightly more inclined to say that the causes are not related to human actions.
Approximately 43% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 throughout the continent expressed concern that the current economic state could hinder their ability to leave their family’s household. Of those surveyed, 56% believed it could prevent them from purchasing a home and 38% believed it could impact their decision to have children.
The survey revealed that Europeans, regardless of their age or country of origin, were more inclined to believe that the EU should be responsible for determining how to address the climate crisis on behalf of its member states rather than individual countries making independent decisions.
People from Italy, Spain, and Britain were more inclined to make changes to their lifestyle in order to combat the climate crisis. However, Germans, a quarter of whom do not believe that global warming is caused by humans, were the least likely to do so.
The most common lifestyle modifications across all age groups were the minor ones. Adding greenery to their living space had the highest level of approval, with 79% of British individuals and 66% of Germans stating that they either already did so or were open to doing so.
Approximately 66% of participants indicated a willingness to consume seasonal vegetables and fruits, while eliminating all meat and dairy products was the least favored alteration. Italians were found to be the most willing, with 27% stating they would make this change.
Many Europeans were uncertain about giving up driving. A majority of French, Italian, and German citizens expressed their openness to solely relying on walking, biking, or public transportation. However, a smaller percentage of British, Swedish, and Danish individuals shared the same sentiment.