More stuff = more climate change?


Scientists know greenhouse gas emissions cause climate
change, but what causes greenhouse gas emissions in the
first place? We assessed how many greenhouse gases are
released to support the lifestyles of people living in different
parts of Europe – in other words, we figured out people’s
carbon footprint. We found that different lifestyle choices
resulted in very different carbon footprints. In general,
people with higher incomes (who bought more things
and traveled more) had much higher carbon footprints
than people who lived more modestly. Understanding
how our purchases affect greenhouse gas emissions is
an important step to designing policies and guidelines for
cutting emissions and addressing climate change.
The European Union requires that all of its member
countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions in order
to reduce the effects of climate change. But if European
nations close their factories that emit greenhouse gases,
those factories might just move to other countries with
less strict regulations – which wouldn’t help the climate
at all. Everyone on Earth shares the same atmosphere,
and greenhouse gas emissions on any part of the planet
will affect everybody. Think of it this way: just moving
the dirty dishes to the other side of the sink doesn’t make
them clean!
How can we be sure that rules to cut greenhouse gas
emissions don’t just serve to re-locate them? One way
is to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprints
(Figure 1). Carbon footprints show the amount of
greenhouse gasses that are emitted to produce the
things we buy and to support our lifestyles. Having a
bigger carbon footprint means you contribute more to
causing climate change than someone with a smaller
carbon footprint. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *