Wealthier people produce more carbon pollution — even the “green” ones
Green intentions are swamped by wealth Moser and Kleinhückelkotten set out to test these results by examining detailed data gathered by a survey of about 1,000 representative Germans, done in 2016 for the German Environment Agency. (More on that survey here. There is obviously some question how well the results translate to other countries, but in this domain Germany seems at least like a decent analogue for the US — wealthy and greenish.) They found a stark confirmation of previous research. First, “envir
Green intentions are swamped by wealth
‘Impact-oriented’ research [shows] that the primary determinant of a person’s actual ecological footprint is income. After that is geography (rural versus urban), various socioeconomic indicators (age, education level, etc.), and household size. Self-identification as ‘green’ is toward the bottom of the list, with mostly marginal effects.
Moser and Kleinhückelkotten set out to test these results …
‘Environmental self-identity did not predict overall energy use or carbon footprint’. In fact, energy use and carbon footprints were slightly higher among self-identified greenies.
The variables that most predict carbon footprint are ‘per capita living space, energy used for household appliances, meat consumption, car use, and vacation travel’. And wealthy people — even those who self-identify as green — consume more and do more of all those things.
Basically, research shows that ‘Environmental identity’ rarely drives serious reductions in the biggest sources of lifestyle emissions. Environmental self-identification rises with income, but so do emissions.