A study carried out in Innsbruck, Austria, in partnership with the University of Exeter, looked at what motivated “voluntary climate action” across the generations, focusing on parents and children.
The overwhelming conclusion was, children push parents to think about the future as well as their environmental responsibilities.
Oliver Hauser, Associate Professor Economics at the University of Exeter Business School, and co-author of the study, said: “When their own children are present during this decision, parents are reminded of their responsibility to their children and the benefits of investing into their future.”
The study was published in the journal.Resource Economics and Environmental Economics, researchers paid 368 parents €69 each and asked how much they wanted to keep and how much they wanted to invest in a Local foresting scheme
All participants received information about the scheme and the role played by trees in reducing CO2 emissions.
They could purchase up to 46 trees, costing €1.50 each, and any money not invested would be paid to them at the end of the experiment.
To make the spending decision, adults were divided in to four groups. The first group consisted of parents and their kids, the second was parents with children they didn’t know, and the third was parents watched by other adults, while the fourth was parents not observed.
Nearly 14,000 trees were planted by more than two-thirds of participants who decided to invest the entire amount in the foresting program.
However, parents observed by their own children chose to plant an average of 39.6 trees compared with 37.1 in those who were unobserved – a seven per cent difference.
Children were also observed by parents and they planted 38.2 trees in an average.
Education was a significant factor. Participants who had completed secondary school chose to plant an average 39.37 trees compared with the average 27.61 trees for those who didn’t.
“It may be that parents who have completed secondary education are more aware of the environmental impact of their decision or because better education is usually correlated with more disposable income, which means that sacrificing the money they could earn in the experiment would affect their finances less”, said Professor Hauser.
Participants were also asked for their climate change scepticism in a survey.
People with a degree of scepticism were less likely to invest in climate change when their child was watching them than when a different child or adult was watching.