Reduce consumption to reduce emissions?

In our last post we saw that consumption (C) is increasing [1,2,3]. Let’s look at the climate equation from an earlier post:

Total emissions = P x C x E

P = Population (the number of people on the planet)

C = Consumption (everything each person “consumes” in a year: buying a phone, driving a car etc. – anything you do!)

E = Greenhouse gas emissions per service (the amount of emissions caused before, during or after you use each service, which could be an activity or a physical product).

We can see that if we significantly reduce our consumption we can significantly reduce our total emissions. But how easy is this?

There are still around 1.3 billion people living in poverty [4]. In order to give these people better lives, they require things [5] like access to clean drinking water [6], electricity [7], and medicines [8]. Therefore, in less developed countries we want consumption to increase to help improve people’s quality of life [9,10,11]. You can see examples of this in our posted image (swipe!) [5].

But people in high-income countries can and should change consumption patterns [12]. Each person can choose to consume less in total (decrease C) and/or consume things with lower emissions per service (decrease E). Swipe to see our image for this!

However, since we can’t stop consuming things completely we need to look at reducing energy use per service to get emissions down to zero. See this in our next post!


[1] Within article see: Energy use per capita. Increase from 15,540 KWh per person in 1971 to 22,336 kWh per person in 2014(22336/15540 = 1.437, so a 44% increase)

[2] Within paper see: Global dietary change


[4] Within report see: key findings. Note: the report only looked at poverty in 100 countries, covering 5.7 billion people, but most of those countries missed out were high-income countries. The Multidimensional Poverty Index takes into account health, education and standard of living, rather than just financial income which is often used as a way of measuring poverty.

[5] Within article see: Keeping people out of poverty.

[6] Within report see: Executive summary.

[7] Within article see: CO2 and poverty alleviation


[9] Within paper see: Abstract – in countries with a percaptia GDP below US$15,000, life satisfaction increases with GDP

[10] Within article see especially: HIHD vs. GDP per capita

[11] Within report see: Paragraph 1 and bullet point 1

[12] Within report see: Executive summary.

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