Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Large U.S. Homes Create Bigger Carbon Footprint, New Study Shows

Climate
Large U.S. Homes Create Bigger Carbon Footprint, New Study Shows
A new study finds that wealthy Americans living in spacious houses in upscale neighborhoods are responsible for 25% more emissions on average than those living in smaller houses in poorer areas. Pxfuel
Dreaming of a white-picket-fence home in an affluent suburb? Chances are your carbon footprint will be 15 times larger than your less-well-off neighbor.

A new study finds that wealthy Americans living in spacious houses in upscale neighborhoods are responsible for 25% more emissions on average than those living in smaller houses in poorer areas.

Rich people live in bigger houses and consume more energy, generating greater climate-warming emissions, according to the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Although houses are becoming more energy-efficient, U.S. household energy use and related greenhouse gas emissions are not shrinking," lead author Benjamin Goldstein, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, said in a statement, adding that "this lack of progress undermines the substantial emissions reductions needed to mitigate climate change."

The U.S. has the highest per capita emissions of any country and has historically pumped the largest amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. About a quarter of U.S. emissions are produced by households, which is more than Germany's total emissions.

Goldstein and his team tracked energy consumption patterns of nearly 100 million households by reviewing their 2015 tax records. They looked at incomes, building types, the climate, and the kind of power grid supplying homes to generate the first-ever national carbon emissions rankings of states down to the zip code.

House acreage plays an outsized role in determining a household's carbon footprint, and lower-income people generally live in smaller spaces. Carbon emissions linked to residences are a result of everything from the use of dishwashers and lights, to heating and cooling.

U.S. household greenhouse gas intensity in 2015 by state. Household GHG intensity represented by kilograms CO2-equivalents per square meter (kg CO2-e/m2) by state. Benjamin Goldstein

"Regional variations were driven mainly by the amount of energy needed to heat and cool homes and by the type of fuel used to generate electricity," the study authors said.

This is why regions where the demand for heating or cooling is higher guzzle more energy and produce more carbon emissions, especially states in the northeast. Maine, Vermont and Wisconsin were the largest consumers of energy in 2015.

Vermont is the home state of Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who promised to declare climate change a national emergency if elected president and has pushed for a more ambitious domestic policy on climate change. Sanders ended his presidential run earlier this year and has endorsed Joe Biden, the former vice president. Biden last week unveiled a $2 trillion plan to tackle climate change.

The least energy-intensive states were Florida, Arizona and California. Overall, central states fared the worst when it came to their carbon footprint per unit of floor space in 2015.

Donald Trump, who is vying to be re-elected this November, is openly dismissive of climate change concerns. In 2015, 195 countries came together to sign the Paris Agreement laying down targets for reductions in carbon emissions by 2030 and 2050. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the global climate treaty last year.

Despite this, Democrats hope a new president will be installed in the White House, who will push an even stronger climate agenda than Barack Obama, who helped forge the Paris climate treaty.

The goal under the treaty for housing is to reduce emissions by 80% from their 2005 levels. An analysis by the researchers suggests that U.S. households won't meet the 2050 targets set for residential emissions, even if the electricity grid relies on cleaner sources of energy.

Only if homes are smaller and more tightly packed together would that target be achievable. But it would still require Americans to use energy more sparingly and more efficiently.

Reposted with permission from Mongabay.

Since April 2020, farmer support for Trump has fallen from 89 percent to 71 percent, according to an August 2020 survey by DTN/The Progressive Farmer. Steve Smith / Getty Imagess

By Leanna First-Arai

In a push to capture the rural vote, 62 percent of which went to Trump in 2016, both the Trump and Biden campaigns are ramping up efforts to appeal to farmers and ranchers.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An electric car at an eVgo charging station in a parking lot in Dublin, California on June 20, 2018. Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday that would ban the sale of new cars in California that run only on gasoline by the year 2035. The bid to reduce emissions and combat the climate crisis would make California the first state to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines, according to POLITICO.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.

Read More Show Less
Long-finned pilot whales are seen during a 1998 stranding in Marion Bay in Tasmania, Australia. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.

Read More Show Less
A protest in solidarity with the Wetʼsuwetʼen's anti-pipeline struggle, at Canada House in Trafalgar Square on March 1, 2020 in London, England. More than 200 environmental groups had their Facebook accounts suspended days before an online solidarity protest. Ollie Millington / Getty Images

Facebook suspended more than 200 accounts belonging to environmental and Indigenous groups Saturday, casting doubt on the company's stated commitments to addressing the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch