4 Controversial Habits That Cause The Most Carbon Emissions

For once, plastic water bottles don't get a mention.

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When we talk about reducing carbon footprint, the discussion always leads to what we are willing to sacrifice— in order to save the planet. Human impacts on global warming are attributed to diverse factors, many of which are deeply rooted in cultural tradition, and not so easy to give up.

“We recognize these are deeply personal choices, but we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has,” said Kimberly Nicholas, co-author of the study published in Environmental Research Letters, titled “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions”.

If you want to live more environmentally-friendly, here are the real four biggest contributors to carbon emissions.

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1. Children

(average for developed countries 58.6 tonnes tCO2e per year)

While China’s one-child policy might be a little dramatic, it’s safe to say that bumping up sexual education and contraception availability worldwide would slow population growth and take a lot of stress off the planet. Currently, more than 4 babies are born around the world every second— that’s 255 each minute.

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2. Driving A Car— (2.4 tCO2e per year)

All road signs point to… Bike, walk, take the bus, metro or a collective. Still, transportation trends largely depend on place and unfortunately, the places with the most cars usually have the most traffic— which means cars sitting around for hours, emitting even more exhaust.

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3. Air Travel

 (1.6 tCO2e per roundtrip transatlantic flight)

Everyone wants to travel, but few consider the environmental ramifications. The New York Times reported back in 2013 “One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10.” Still, overseas travel remains a top favourite first world leisure activity.

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4. Eating Meat 

  (0.8 tCO2e per year).

The study found switching to a plant-based diet is four times as effective as recycling. The research cites “western cultural norms associate meat with wealth, status and luxury (Ruby 2012) and meat consumption per capita in the richest 15 nations is 750% higher than in the poorest 24 nations (Tilman and Clark 2014)”.

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