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United States Household Carbon Footprints: Quantifying the relationship between household-level income inequality and greenhouse gas emissions (1996-2015)

Abstract
As long as humanity has existed, we have altered our environment to provide goods, services, and (more recently) wealth to people. Over the last several centuries, the scope and pace of this transformation has accelerated with the onset of technological innovation, social and economic reorganization, and an ensuing population boom. Today, humanity’s demands on nature have become the dominant force shaping the critical earth systems upon which all life depends. From local land-use change to the global climate many of these anthropogenic pressures pose an existential threat to nature and the dependent social systems that rely on them. Yet, extreme economic and social inequality within and across human societies leads to significant inequality in who reaps the benefits of these transformations, who reaps the harms, and who makes the decisions on that benefit-harm distribution. Here I quantify, at high granularity and over a 20-year period (1996-2015), the GHG emissions footprints of United States households, based on the flow of income, goods and services these emissions enable. I compare the scale and distributions of household-level GHG emissions across different social groups and responsibility frameworks and provide policy insights related to those findings.
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