February 6, 2013
Americans Should Adopt European Work Model To Curb Climate Change
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Americans could better pull their weight in reducing global climate change by shifting to a Western European work model, according to a new study by the liberal think tank Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR).
Adopting such a policy - which would involve working fewer hours and enjoying longer vacations - would cut carbon emissions to such an extent that temperature increases would be half their projected amount by 2100, the organization said in its report.
“The calculation is simple: fewer work hours means less carbon emissions, which means less global warming,” said David Rosnick, author of the report.
“As productivity increases, especially in high-income countries, there is a social choice between taking some of these gains in the form of reduced hours, or entirely as increased production.”
Developing nations face two choices as they continue to grow: a "European" work model, or an "American" one of little vacation and 40-hour work weeks, Rosnick said.
“For many years, European countries have been reducing work hours — including by taking more holidays, vacation, and leave — while the United States has gone the route of increased production.”
"There's a lot of controversy–should the developing world follow an American or European model?”
The European model would mean fewer hours worked, less output and lower emissions of greenhouse gases. Such a policy would be a tradeoff of up to one-quarter of income gains in exchange for added leisure and vacation time, according to the report.
Under Rosnick´s best-case scenario, a temperature rise of 1.3 degrees Celsius would be averted if Americans began working 0.5 percent less per year, beginning with a 10-hour weekly work reduction in 2013.
"We can get a similar amount of work done as productivity and technology improves," Rosnick said.
"It's something we have to decide as a country–there are economic models in which individuals get to decide their hours and are still similarly productive as they are now."
Rosnick acknowledged some caveats to his analysis, such as not accounting for the growing trend of telecommuting, which will reduce transportation emissions. Additionally, there is no way to know what each worker might choose to do with their newfound leisure time, and how this might add to carbon emissions.
For example, working fewer office hours is unlikely to have much of an impact on carbon emissions if a person were to then take a vacation, Rosnick said.
"If people are taking a vacation, that means they're not commuting, but it might mean they're taking a plane ride.”