Men's heavy reliance on cars cause traffic jams like this one near Aachen, Germany
Credit: Immanuel Giel/Public domain
Pollution Is a Masculine Noun
By Julio Godoy
Poor eating habits and inefficient use of transportation mean men are responsible for more emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide than women are.
PARIS, Feb 14 (Tierramérica).- Many aspects of gender inequality are well known and well documented. But there seems to be little awareness that male behavior leads to greater emissions of climate-changing gases.
That is the conclusion of two independent studies by separate teams of European scientists, both based on statistical data on consumption and daily activities of men and women in industrialized countries.
Frédéric Chomé, a French consultant on environmental and sustainable development issues, stated that a typical French woman causes emissions of 32.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day, on average, while a man causes 39.3 kg of CO2 emissions.
"The estimates are based on a study of human activities separated by gender, conducted by France's National Institute of Statistics and Economics (INSEE)," Chomé told Tierramérica.
"Although our calculation method is very approximate, I believe the result is a good indicator of the differences in environmental contamination resulting from the different behavior of men and women," added the author of the study titled "24 Hours Exactly: Your Personal Carbon Account."
Similar conclusions resulted from a study by Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, of Sweden, and Riita Räty, of Finland, about the behaviors of men and women in 10 daily activities in Germany, Greece, Norway and Sweden.
According to their study, "Comparing Energy Use by Gender, Age and Income in Some European Countries," men consume more meat and processed beverages than women do, use automobiles more frequently and driving longer distances, resulting in greater CO2 emissions.
Commenting on the two studies, Corinna Altenburg and Fritz Reusswig, of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, noted that some of the more polluting habits attributed to the male population are the result of the social roles they usually play in society.
In transportation, for example, men make more trips in airplane and automobile, raising considerably their ecological footprint, according to the two experts.
That difference could be balanced out in the future, "to the extent that equal opportunity allows women to climb the labor ladder, while men take on more household duties."
Meanwhile, eating habits follow the gender line: men tend to eat more meat, and women eat more fruits and vegetables -- habits that are difficult to change, according to Altenburg and Reusswig.
They suggest that a policy aimed at reducing the male portion of CO2 emissions should focus as much on environmental objectives as issues of urban development, "men's" jobs, and deeply rooted social customs.
"The goal in eating should be to trade quantity for quality. Reducing the consumption of meat reduces mass production of meat, and that helps fight CO2 emissions from livestock, for example," said the experts.
BLAME THE MEN
Chomé found that in France, in eating habits alone, one man is responsible for 7.98 kg of CO2 emissions per day, while one woman is responsible for 6.79 kg per day. The scientists found similar gender differences in nearly all 11 activities analyzed.
The only case in which women cause greater greenhouse gas emissions is in carrying out household tasks like cooking and cleaning and washing clothes, according to the study released Nov. 24.
Carlsson-Kanyama, meanwhile, explained to Tierramérica that their research found that, apart from the substantial gender differences in transportation and eating habits, it is the consumption of alcohol and tobacco products that drive up the portion of emissions for which men are responsible.
"For the study, we looked at the total use of energy per household in the four countries, and then we divided the individual consumption of men and women by activity," she said.
But the activity with greatest environmental consequences is transportation, stressed Carlsson-Kanyama. "In that rubric alone, men consume between 70 and 80 percent more energy than women in Germany and Norway, 100 percent more in Sweden, and up to 350 percent more in Greece."
This is explained by men's more intensive individual car use, which leads to greater consumption of fuel, car parts and repairs.
"These differences are not specific to the four countries analyzed, but are generalized across the European Union and have little to do with the different professional activities of men and women," said Carlsson-Kanyama.
Women in the EU tend to make short trips by car, utilize public transportation more often, and plan their trips according to the transportation needs of others.
In general, the study that Carlsson-Kanyama and Räty published in August 2009 demonstrates that men consume more energy than women do. The differences range from six percent in Norway and eight percent in Germany to 22 percent in Sweden and as high as 39 percent in Greece.
As in previous studies, the researchers also conclude that energy consumption increases as household income rises, and with it, increased individual contribution to climate change.
According to Carlsson-Kanyama, the findings of the two studies suggest that the European governments should focus their emissions-reduction efforts on convincing the male population to modify their transportation and eating habits to increase energy efficiency in related activities.