Old fogeys aren’t known for their environmentalist ways–after all, does your granny drive a Prius or an old Buick? But a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that your grandmother could be an unwitting environmentalist after all. Simply by getting older, she and her bridge partners could be helping reduce global carbon emissions.
“Aging can reduce emissions by up to 20% in some industrialized countries,” concludes a press release announcing the findings of the new study, which examines the influence of population dynamics on climate change. Ultimately, the fact that your grandparents may not even believe in Al Gore’s inconvenient truth is heavily outweighed by the fact that, by no longer participating in the labor force, they are slowing economic growth and thereby powering down the economic engine that spews billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
Note the language above, though: “some industrialized countries.” In others–namely, those whose economy were to go thoroughly green, there’s a case to be made that participation in the labor force across the board might lead to reduced emissions. And the study notes that in developing countries, other demographic metrics may be more important: Urbanization appears directly correlated with increased emissions in some countries, since it represents economic growth.
In the manner of scientists, the researchers caution that they are not advocating any policy regarding aging, or any policy at all. After all, just because a country has lower emissions doesn’t mean that it’s a happier one, if its social security is depleted and an small underclass of young workers is supporting legions of grandparents kicking it on the beach.