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November 09, 2011

The Older We Get, the Easier it Gets for the Planet

Old person2Here's one more reason why you should always respect your elders.

A recent look at the lifestyle of typical older Americans finds that the planet breathes a lot easier with more of them around, according to a new study. The carbon emissions of a typical American steadily increases from the age of 10 all the way until those Social Security checks start rolling in. At the age of 65, Americans hit their peak at about 14.9 metric tons per capita each year. Then the rate falls to 13.1 metric tons by the age of 80, according to the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. The study doesn't examine emissions beyond the age of 80, but researchers think emissions fall even more after that point.

What does all this mean? Well, with the baby boomers entering retirement and grandparenthood, the age factor should put a noticeable dent in emissions eventually –- but not in the near future. "This is partly because baby boomers are the age group with the highest per capita emissions and large numbers of them won't reach age 80 until after 2030," reports USA Today.

This study isn't the only one that sees hope in older folks. Last week, Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, in an analysis had a similar take on old age and oil usage. When "people retire and no longer commute, miles driven drop by a third to a half. With so many baby boomers now retiring, this too will lower gasoline use," he writes. Oil use has already dropped 11 percent since 2007 and the age factor –- in addition to fuel-efficient and plug-in cars, public transit, and bike use -- will drive the rate of decrease even more in the coming years.

In fact the country's lowering trend in emissions is so significant that a drop of 20 percent by 2020 is viable, according to Brown. "If so, the United States could become a world leader in cutting carbon emissions and stabilizing climate," he writes. 

-- Brian Foley


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