Date: 16 September
Malcolm Fairbrother is professor of sociology at Umeå University and researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies. In this seminar he presents the paper How Much Do People Value Future Generations? Climate Change, Trust, and Public Support for Future-Oriented Policies, co-authored by Gustaf Arrhenius, Krister Bykvist and Tim Campbell.
Do people care about future generations? Moral philosophers say we should, but it is not clear that laypeople agree. In particular, humanity’s inadequate efforts to mitigate climate change could be due to public indifference about the well-being of future generations. A second possible reason for public scepticism about climate actions, however, could be that distrust of major social institutions leads people to doubt climate policies’ effectiveness. Using surveys and survey experiments in four countries—Sweden, Spain, South Korea, and China—we found that most people say they care about future generations, and would even be willing to reduce their standard of living so that people can enjoy better lives in the future. But not everyone who says they care supports two types of policies which could be enacted for the benefit of future generations: policies to reduce either global warming or national debt. Some results suggest that much and perhaps most of people’s apparent lack of concern for future generations is due to disbelief or distrust in the effectiveness of future-oriented policies, though our main results are observational and we cannot make strong causal claims.
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