Carbon footprint concept – 3d rendering

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‘Older people used to be thrifty… The ‘new elderly’ are different.’

TRONDHEIM, Norway — Are baby boomers driving climate change? A new study says older adults are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other age group now. In fact, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that people over 60 accounted for 25 percent of these emissions in 2005. However, that number jumped to 33 percent in 2015.

“Older people used to be thrifty. The generation that experienced World War II was careful about how they used resources. The ‘new elderly’ are different,” says Edgar Hertwich, an NTNU professor in the Industrial Ecology Program, in a university release.

Study authors examined greenhouse gas emissions emitted by age in 2005, 2010, and 2015. The survey included 27 countries in the European Union, Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and the United States.

“The post-war ‘baby boomer’ generation are the new elderly. They have different consumption patterns than the ‘quiet generation’ that was born in the period 1928-1945. Today’s seniors spend more money on houses, energy consumption and food,” Hertwich adds.

Baby boomers now have the biggest carbon footprint

In 2005, the study found that adults over 60 produced fewer emissions than people in the 30-44 and 45-59 age groups. A decade later, seniors surpassed adults in the 30-44 age group and matched the emissions of the 45-59 group.

Heran Zheng, a postdoctoral fellow at NTNU, believes that trend points to people over 60 now producing the largest carbon footprint of any age group in 2022. The study found that older adults in all 32 countries surveyed were increasing the share of climate emissions in those nations. Moreover, seniors in Japan accounted for over half of the emissions in that country.

Zheng notes that, with people living longer worldwide, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Estimates show the elderly populations in these countries will double between 2019 and 2050.

“The consumption habits of seniors are more rigid. For example, it would be an advantage if more people moved to smaller homes once the kids moved out,” the researcher says. “Hopefully more senior-friendly housing communities, transport systems and infrastructure can be built.”

Older adults keep their emissions local

Compared to younger adults, the study finds people over 60 tend to contribute to more emissions in their local communities. Younger age groups consumed more imported goods, clothing, electronics, and items which cause emissions in other countries. Meanwhile, seniors generally have more wealth, which allows them to engage in more activities which produce greenhouse gases closer to home.

“Income shrinks in retirement, but seniors in developed countries have accumulated value, primarily in housing. A lot of them have seen a large increase in the value of their property. The elderly are able to maintain their high consumption through their wealth. This happens especially in carbon-intensive areas like energy. An increasing proportion of this age group live alone. This isn’t the case in all countries, but it reflects the overall picture,” Zheng explains.

As for which country’s boomers are creating the biggest footprint, seniors in the U.S. and Australia top the list — producing 21 tons of emissions in 2015. That’s nearly double the average of seniors in Europe.

Despite people over 60 moving up the list of greenhouse gas culprits, researchers do note that every age group is still emitting fewer emissions than they were in 2005. People under 30 are leading the way in this regard, cutting their annual emissions by 3.7 tons.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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8 Comments

  1. Fred says:

    Climate change is not about climate – it is about control.

  2. Wesley says:

    The quantities in this article are vague. ‘More’? ‘Today’s seniors spend more money on houses, energy consumption and food,” Hertwich adds. Of course we do. They are more expensive than they were 20 years ago.

  3. Al says:

    Climate change is about globalism it’s just another way of the socialist communist to gain control and tell us what to do they want us to live in apartments and take public transportation their evil they hate it when normal people have accumulated wealth and enjoy themselves

    1. Abner says:

      You are exactly right. Globalism, New World Order, Great Reset – this is all garbage and takes away our individual freedoms. Meanwhile media hypes it all, fear mongers about everything else, and plays the Blame Game to distract us from what is going on. Worse than ‘1984’ is coming and they aren’t even trying to hide it. They have TOLD us we will own nothing and be happy about it. It is in the plans now to take away cash and go to digital money that they will be able track and even control what we can and cannot buy based on our ‘social grade’ or any other marker they choose, and it will be even easier with digital IDs which are also already being planned. They will insist that we will be protected by laws and that kind of control won’t happen. But it will.
      Don’t think it’s coming? Remember – people objected to social security numbers as an invasion of privacy and the government SWORE to us it would not, could not be used for ID.
      Thank goodness I’m a ‘New Elderly’ and probably won’t live to see the worst. I am terrified for my grandchildren. The super wealthy who control everything ARE evil and they have plans for the masses.

  4. rotorhead1871 says:

    “Older people used to be thrifty. The generation that experienced World War II was careful about how they used resources. The ‘new elderly’ are different,” says Edgar….

    well Edgar is an idiot!!….Boomers did not experience WW2……we came after it…1946 to 1962….your comment has NO validity…..

  5. Gan says:

    Makes sense.
    I look at my boomer parents and am amazed at what they use.
    They do laundry everyday for some reason (comfort?)
    They produce large of amounts of trash from food products and other stuff.
    They use large amounts of dishes and utensils for simple meals (more water use, heat).
    The home is always heated/cooled excessively with no attempt to utilize better clothing (like thermals).
    Still using copious amounts of water on lawns that aren’t used for anything.
    Drive large inefficient vehicles.

  6. Kelly says:

    The so called Greatest Generation, the parents of baby boomers, were NOT thrifty – you’re thinking of THEIR parents, the Depression generation. The WWII generation caused the greatest environmental disasters of the 20th century. They had WAY too many kids. Literally – Baby. Boom. They expanded the highway system, moved to the suburbs, bought more and bigger gas hog cars, built bigger houses, paved over the country, tore up green space and went nuts with urban sprawl. They put people and profits before animals, nature and clean air and water. And when they retired, they bought huge RV’s and drove all over the country. The WWII generation resisted recycling and restrictions on land use and every environmental regulation. They were also resistant to Native American rights and their culture of responsible resource use. Boomers, however, have been trying to reverse the environmental degradation of their parents for 50 years. Boomers are responsible for most modern environmental groups, Earth Day and massive environmental regulations.
    I don’t identify as a Boomer – I’m a cusp Boomer / Gen X-er; I was a mere child well into the 70’s. But I don’t like the trend of Millennials blaming everything on Boomers and being so ignorant of history.

  7. Michael North says:

    I live in Florida and all I see are boomers and their children I call zoomers. Both are vroomers because they all have loud trucks. The boomers drive new ones and the zoomers get the ones the boomers don’t want any more. The first thing these kids do is remove the muffler and the catalytic converter so it makes more noise, and we are talking defining noise every ten seconds one goes by and it’s enough to cause health issues from the stress. But that’s not the worst of it. In order for them to get the pleasure of having a super loud truck that makes them feel all tough and cool they have to spew unburnt fuel in everyone’s face. Ridi g a bike now days is not only more dangerous its unhealthy since all you can breath is thick exhaust fumes. They also seem to hate bikes. There’s hardly no public transportation the side walks a dangerous ang falling apart not even a bike lane. Other countries have high speed trains but the US has nothing. It’s worse than a 3rd world country its a hellscape and it wasn’t like this before the boomer generation. These boomers also cruise around in big diesel powered boats that get about 1 mile to the gallon as they belch exhaust and turn beautiful marine into thick polluted muddy water making even the fish too toxic to eat. It’s beyond sad what the boomers have done and have thought their children.