It’s not what you say that matters. It’s what you do. That’s especially true when it comes to believing in climate change and actually adopting a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. That’s one of the key findings of the Household Electricity Survey, the most comprehensive assessment ever of power usage in the United Kingdom.
The survey, which was conducted by Cambridge Architectural Research and Loughborough University for the U.K.’s Department for Energy and Climate Change, monitored 250 households across England from 2010 to 2011. It found that folks who acknowledge climate change is real are still total energy hogs.
In fact, “households that said the effects of climate change are too far into the future to worry them use less, rather than more, electricity,” wrote the report’s authors.
The researchers asked homeowners from typical demographic backgrounds to keep a detailed record of how they used appliances such as toasters, washers, dryers, and televisions and how often they flicked the lights off and on. That consumption diary was then compared with the use reflected on electric bills.
Because they wanted to discover how social factors affect power consumption, the researchers also asked participants whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, “The effects of climate change are too far in the future to really worry me.” It turned out that older households were more likely to agree with the statement, and they also had lower energy consumption.
“The survey exposes the hypocrisy of many who claim to be ‘green’: the greater the concern people express about global warming the less they do to reduce their energy usage,” said Commons Energy and Climate Change committee member Peter Lilley to the Telegraph.
The study’s authors warn that there is “seldom a statistically significant relationship between stated and actual behavior.” At a time when it’s hip and cool to say you’re green, policy makers looking to get people to unplug their laptops and turn off their lights will really need to incentivize folks do it.