People over 60 responsible for a third of global emissions: Study
According to a study, the new generation of seniors, also known as baby boomers born post World War II, is leaving behind a heavy climate footprint.
People over 60 are more likely to spend on houses, energy, and food – leading to an increase in the production of greenhouse gases that harm the environment and human health.
In 2005, the above 60 age group accounted for 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and by 2015 the proportion was close to 33 percent, revealed the study detailed in the journal Nature Climate Change.
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While young people under the age of 30 have cut their annual emissions by 3.7 tonnes between 2005 and 2015, the 30-44-year-olds reduced emissions by 2.7 tonnes and the 45-59-year-old group by 2.2 tonnes. But people over the age of 60 have had the smallest decline, only 1.5 tonnes.
“Older people used to be thrifty. The generation that experienced World War-II was careful about how they used resources. The ‘new elderly’ are different,” said Edgar Hertwich, Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Industrial Ecology Programme.
“The post-war ‘baby boomer’ generation are the new elderly. They have different consumption patterns than the ‘quiet generation’ that was born in the period 1928-1945. Today’s seniors spend more money on houses, energy consumption and food,” Hertwich said.
The team from NTNU conducted a survey of greenhouse gas emissions by age in 2005, 2010, and 2015. They included people over 60 from about 32 countries.
The findings showed that baby boomers in Norway, the UK, the US, Australia are the worst when it comes to their carbon footprint. Particularly the seniors in Japan account for over half of climate emissions.
The research is of concern as the aging wave is sweeping the world, so as the new elderly attain a larger climate footprint, it’s bad news. Thus, the most important message from this research is for politicians to be aware that the aging population is making it more difficult to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The consumption habits of seniors are more rigid. For example, it would be an advantage if more people moved to smaller homes once the kids moved out,” said Heran Zheng, a postdoctoral fellow at NTNU.
“Hopefully more senior-friendly housing communities, transport systems and infrastructure can be built,” he added.
Further, the team found that in comparison with the other age groups, the emissions that the elderly account for tend to be more local. Younger age groups consume more imported goods, clothing, electronics, and furniture, goods that lead to emissions in other countries.
“Seniors in developed countries have accumulated value, primarily in housing. A lot of them have seen a large increase in the value of their property. The elderly are able to maintain their high consumption through their wealth,” said Zheng.
“This happens especially in carbon-intensive areas like energy. An increasing proportion of this age group live alone. This isn’t the case in all countries, but it reflects the overall picture,” he added.