- David Adam, London
- The Age, September 25, 2008
PEOPLE who believe they have the greenest lifestyles are often the main culprits behind global warming, say researchers who claim that many ideas about sustainable living are a myth.
According to the researchers, people who regularly recycle rubbish and save energy at home are the most likely to take frequent long-haul flights.
Research leader Stewart Barr, of Exeter University in England, said: "Green living is largely something of a myth. There is this middle-class environmentalism where being green is part of the desired image. But another part of the desired image is to fly off skiing twice a year. And the carbon savings they make by not driving their kids to school will be obliterated by pollution from their flights."
Only a very small number of people matched their eco-friendly behaviour at home by refusing to fly abroad, Mr Barr told a climate change conference at Exeter University.
The research team surveyed 200 people on their environmental attitudes. They found the longest and the most frequent flights were taken by those who were most aware of environmental issues.
One respondent said: "I recycle 100% of what I can … so that makes me feel less guilty about flying as much as I do."
Mr Barr said: "The findings indicate that even those people who appear to be very committed to environmental action find it difficult to transfer these behaviours into more problematic contexts."
The team said the research was one of the first attempts to analyse how green intentions alter depending on context. It said the results revealed the scale of the challenge faced by policymakers trying to alter public behaviour to help tackle global warming.