June 19, 2019

Consumerism Is Killing the Earth

“To save the planet, mankind must rapidly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. But where should we be reducing those emissions from? What would make the biggest difference?

Journalists and environmentalists often answer that question by looking at which sectors of the U.S. economy contribute the most to global warming. The transportation (cars, buses, trucks, and planes) leads in greenhouse gas emissions, while electricity (coal and natural-gas power plants) is a close second. Industrial goods and services are third, buildings fourth, and agriculture fifth.

This way of measuring blame, however, misses something crucial: people. These industries are spouting carbon because customers demand their products: travel, electronics, entertainment, food, all sorts of stuff. So what if, instead of solely measuring emissions by economic sector, we looked at consumer demand within those sectors?

Researchers have done just that, and the results tilt the question of blame away from businesses and toward a different villain: ourselves.”

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