Emissions Use Decreases As We Age
November 8, 2011

Emissions Use Decreases As We Age

According to new research released on Monday, the carbon-dioxide emissions of the average American increase until around the age of 65.

Emilio Zagheni of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (MPIDR) found that although the aging of the Earth's population will cause a slight rise in carbon-dioxide emissions over the next four decades, the long-term trends show that increasing life expectancy will result in a reduction of emissions.

Zagheni calculated a profile that illustrates the relationship between age and average emissions throughout a lifetime.

The profile suggests that societies with a growing share of elderly people will produce lower emissions. 

According to the research, Americans produce a steadily increasing amount of emissions from age 10 until 65, which is when adults hit their peak of about 14.9 metric tons per capita.

The amount starts to drop after 65, getting to a low of about 13.1 metric tons by age 80.

In order to calculate the profile, Zagheni had to determine how many dollars an average American spends at different ages on nine energy-intensive products and services.

Zagheni found that an average U.S. middle-aged American flies and drives a car more frequently than young people, as well as uses more electricity.

The elderly spend more money on health care services and less money on traveling and clothing. 

Electricity and natural gas have the great impact on emissions, producing about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide per dollar.  Natural gas produces about 16.5 pounds of emissions per dollar.

Zagheni projected future carbon dioxide emissions for the U.S. to determine if the reductions in emissions by the elderly will alter the effects on climate.

He found that it is likely that the aging population will not lead to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2050 because the process is not yet sufficiently advanced.

However he said this study does not account for potential improvements in technology, which could leverage age structure effects for the good of the climate.