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Are Parents More Focused On Earth’s Future?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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In my article over at The Atlantic, I describe an interesting trend in the University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll data. Parents appear to be more likely to express concern about critical environmental issues like climate change and more interested in changing their behavior to be smarter consumers when it comes to purchasing energy efficient products and services.

For example, here’s a comparison of parents and non-parents who say they are likely to purchase a hybrid car within five years:

And a look at who is interested in installing solar panels:

And finally, this chart considers attitudes on climate change:

These trends hold for far more topics than I have room to share here. And it may sound intuitive that parents are more likely to feel they have a bigger stake in the future, but what’s driving these differences between parents and non-parents is more difficult to pinpoint…

Perhaps parents hear more about global challenges because of what their children learn about in school. Or it could the reverse – that parents are more likely to become actively engaged in teaching their kids about these topics. Or maybe parents are more focused on the legacy we will leave behind for future generations. There are many possibilities and none are mutually exclusive. So what do you think is going on?

Sheril Kirshenbaum About the Author: Sheril Kirshenbaum is Director of The Energy Poll at The University of Texas at Austin where she works to enhance public understanding of energy issues and improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Follow on Twitter @Sheril_.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. JLColburn 2:25 pm 05/28/2014

    Perhaps non-parents feel that they have already contributed to environmental protection by not creating another resource-using human being.

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  2. 2. M Tucker 3:26 pm 05/28/2014

    What this data shows me is that parents are more likely to be concerned about energy prices and it might indicate they are more likely to own homes than non-parents. The final poll indicates nothing about concern for the future. Parents are more likely to believe the climate is changing, so what. What do they attribute that to?

    The only poll that counts happens at the ballot box. Let’s see how many anthropogenic climate change deniers get elected this year. Parents are much more likely to vote, they have kept a crop of deniers in office for a long time now and all indications are they will increase that number.

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  3. 3. vertland@aol.com 2:08 pm 05/30/2014

    If parents cared about their children’s future they would not have children. We have forsaken our children’s future by having too many of them. By the time a child born today is its parent’s age at its birth the Earth will have added another two to three billion more humans and that Earth is going to be a living hell.

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  4. 4. hkraznodar 5:20 pm 06/5/2014

    Be of good cheer people! First of all, parents are increasingly instilling an awareness of the global impact of each individual into their children. Secondly, nature always follows a boom with a bust. The great die off of humans is coming soon. The global population will drop and things will get better for the survivors.

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