Blame The Boomers? They Have The Highest Carbon Footprint


Written by Lloyd Alter, Treehugger

Wendy Koch at USA today looks at a new study by demographer Emilio Zagheni of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, which finds that Individual CO2 emissions decline in old age. Wendy starts her article with:

Much has been written about the economic impact of an aging population in which fewer workers exist to support retirees. Now, a new study looks at how it could affect climate change, finding that individual carbon dioxide emissions decline in old age as the elderly drive less and buy fewer carbon-intensive goods.

But I think Wendy is reading the wrong thing into this story, and is reading the wrong side of the graph.

First of all, when one looks at it in a little more detail, only gasoline usage significantly falls off after age 65; natural gas and electricity just keep rising until they are 80, I suppose because they are all turning up the thermostat and sitting at home listening to Rush.

But the real demographic elephant in the room, or pig in the python, is that we’re just getting started. The first American baby boomers just turned 65 this year, and the biggest bump in the boom, 1957, doesn’t hit age 65 until 2022. Any silver lining in this cloud isn’t visible for decades.

No matter what you look at except electricity, it peaks around sixty. And the peak of the baby boom doesn’t hit sixty for another six years. We have miles to go before we sleep. Sarah at Grist got it right:

USA TODAY asks if this means that old age could mitigate climate change. Which it would, if we replaced all the 65-year-olds with 80-year-olds and didnít allow any new 65-year-olds, but for some reason people tend to frown on the Loganís Run approach. What really could mitigate climate change is if everyone used less stuff. But we’re just going to blame the baby boomers for everything and have done with it.

What the study really shows isn’t a gradually improving situation (that’s 30 years away) but a demographic carbon bomb with a very short fuse.

Read the summary of the report here and the full report here.

This post was originally published by Treehugger.


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Photo from x-ray delta one via flickr


Sonali Ghosh
Sonali G4 years ago

interesting and there are plenty of over 65s that are around my neighbourhood who clearly arn't environmentally aware and just love to kill off plants by pouring poison on it instead of digging them up. (Lazy bone idle) One neighbour poisoned another persons' lawn 'accidently' in this way when trying to destroy their prickly rose bush. The soil was completely dead. Not a living creature remained. There should be stricter controls on these harsh chemicals. Another 3 neighbours have been busily ripping out their hedgerows for ugly red stained wooden fences, (Lazy bone idle) because they are ignorant about the value of natural habitat and greenery and cannot be bothered to tend to them anymore. Concequently these lazy people have developed a real hatred for the birds who have been accustomed to having hedges and boundaries to their habitat and therefore perch and poop on them. I cannot understand that particular age group living on my street. They have this fake squeeky clean image that is actually turning the environment around me in to a dump.

Victoria Pitchford
Vicky P6 years ago

Blame everyone

Callie J.
Callie Johnson6 years ago

>>>I suppose because they are all turning up the thermostat and sitting at home listening to Rush.

Well, aren't we snarky? Was there any point to this article other than to bash and stereotype a particular class of person? And why accompany this article with a picture of a car that I expect most boomers never owned?

Matilda H.
Past Member 6 years ago

This whole blame-game is ridiculous, unproductive and unnecessary, what we need is ACTION and CHANGES for the better.

Nicole Weber
Nicole W6 years ago


Victor M.
Victor M6 years ago

They are obsolete and will disappear like the dinosaurs

Duane B.
.6 years ago

I'd say this is much ado about nothing. I read the full 29 page report. What it (basically) says is that due to population aging there will be a "small, but noticeable increase in CO2 emissions in the US over the next four decades". But, that assumes that during this time period there will be no changes in technology, and there will be no efforts made at conservation. The study also does not refer to "Baby Boomers". This phenomenon (according to the author of the report) will occur in any aging population.

Kamryn M.
Kay M6 years ago

everyone wants to blame someone else.

Mike and Janis B.
Janis B6 years ago

In our experience it isn't the elderly who idle cars while chatting outside their houses, or have air conditioners running in January, who have huge SUVs; and throw out stuff which could help poorer people. It is the yuppie generation who just look after themselves with no thought for the planet or other folk

Emanuel v.
Emanuel v.6 years ago

The Carbon foot print is a figment of the immagination . it does not exist, I've been looking an looking ever so much but can not find it. I even took my shoes off and looked at the soles and alas no sign of it whatsoever. Is n't it time people got of that CO2 gravy train like the Ozone Bull shit. and got on with cleaning up all the other pollution everyone loves to ignore because they are too indoctrinated to think for themselves or it is too bigger ask. What a pack of hypocrits we all are. Have a good look in the mirror and you'll recognise a sheeple when you see one. I saw one in the mirror myself, but at least I ve come to see the light in that respect. How about you ????????