Newer, Smarter, and Greener: Demographic Metabolism As a Driver of Green Consumption and Pro-Environmental Behaviour

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 12:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Raya MUTTARAK, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/OAW and WU), Austria
Wolfgang LUTZ, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/OAW, WU), Austria
Based on the theory of demographic metabolism – a macro-level theory describing how societies change as a consequence of the changing composition of their members with respect to certain relevant and measurable characteristics – this paper assumes possible lower per capita carbon emissions in the future. Demographic metabolism is the process whereby individuals with certain characteristics from older birth cohorts are replaced by individual with other characteristics from younger birth cohorts. The entry of new better-educated cohorts is in fact the key driver of various socioeconomic changes including transition to low fertility society and increase in longevity. With respect to environmental issues and climate change, greater exposure to public discussions, political debates and media reports on environmental problems and climate change can result in greater environmental concern among younger cohorts. Likewise, individuals with higher level of education are found to be more likely to take pro-environmental actions e.g., recycling and buying green products. Therefore, with the exit of older generation and the entry of younger better-educated generation given universal educational expansion, this can contribute to lower carbon emissions in the long run. Indeed, preliminary analyses of pooled Eurobarometer Surveys data for the years 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013 covering 111,648 respondents from 28 EU member countries suggest that behavioural change may well take place following demographic metabolism process. For instance, considering the proportion of individuals who regularly use environmentally-friendly transportation as opposed to using their own car, evidently the younger cohorts are significantly more likely to opt for eco-friendly transportation means than the older ones. Furthermore, we also found that the number of mitigation actions taken is positively associated with years of schooling and climate change concern. This implies that the entry of new better-educated cohorts can subsequently bring about more sustainable consumption patterns and lifestyle.