Climate survey: a resounding ‘yes’ for sustainability | GFS Bern

Climate survey: a resounding ‘yes’ for sustainability

18.06.2019 | Claude Longchamp

According to the latest climate survey, 70% of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 in German-speaking Switzerland approve or strongly approve of other young people taking to the streets to demonstrate for a change in climate policies. 47% view the Swedish strike activist Greta Thunberg as a role model.

Ergebnisse der Klima-Umfrage,

Following old-age pension provisions and the cost of healthcare, climate change is the greatest concern for people under 25. Those are the results of the exclusive climate survey conducted by the gfs.bern research institute on behalf of Blick and Blick am Abend.

Why are the results extraordinary?

There is no doubt that young people are currently becoming politicised. Who could have thought, just a half a year ago, that this would be possible? The current movement is reminiscent of the environmental protests of the Seventies, symbolically represented by the first report of the Club of Rome, which sparked a heated debate back in 1972. The recession that followed the oil crisis raised widespread scepticism about technology-driven progress. This culminated in the movement against nuclear energy and the protests at the Kaiseraugst and Gösgen nuclear power plants.

What has happened to the campaign?

When it comes to measures against climate change, today’s youth in German-speaking Switzerland is …
… supportive of technology: they are in favour of government measures that advance research and sustainable technologies by a majority, and more so than older generations.
… supportive of subsidies: they are in favour of government subsidies for the likes of solar energy systems by a majority, and more so than retired people.
… supportive of financial penalties on individual behaviour only to a certain extent: the concept of a levy on flight tickets is only supported by a small majority, and support is lower than it is among older generations.

What does that mean?

An alternative lifestyle comparable to the environmental movement of the 1970s has not emerged. But there is widespread support for the sustainable use of natural resources. Young people demand greater government investments and subsidies to support that objective. They are sceptical about limiting self-actualisation, however. The same scepticism is expressed regarding any measures that would make life in Switzerland even more expensive for young people, most of whom have a low income – even if those measures would benefit the environment.

Claude Longchamp asks: Questions for Urs Bieri, Co-director of the gfs.bern research institute

Does it make sense to group all people between the ages of 15 and 25 together?

Young people share exactly one thing: their age group. Their political attitudes and actions depend on many other factors: parenting, education and their own experiences. Those factors add up differently for everyone. That’s why only thousands, rather than millions, of young people are demonstrating. Genuine political pressure requires more than a platform, it requires mass involvement. It is important to know how many young people see themselves represented in the demonstrations.

Are there any behaviours they are more willing to change than others?

In the end, young people are just like the rest of us: they have a hard(er) time letting go of things they have grown to love than of things they never use in the first place. Their readiness to give up certain things, as measured in the study, reflects current youth trends: going without smartphones, streaming devices or cheap flights for a shopping trip to Berlin is harder than demanding regionally grown food.

Are the differences between young people and pensioners down to their different life experiences, or are we witnessing a different type of new generation?

Our young people have experienced the great disruption caused by the digital transformation first hand. They are used to the constant development of new tools and routines that become obsolete almost immediately. That will always shape their outlook and their political demands: once something seems outdated, it must be replaced much sooner than used to be the case. It will be exciting to see how those generations experience and enact politics in the future.