Five ways men contribute more to the climate crisis than women

How they travel, what they eat and how they spend their money all play a role

Saman Javed
Wednesday 21 July 2021 13:25
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Greta Thunberg issues 'emergency alert' over climate crisis

According to researchers in Sweden, single men emit over 18 per cent more greenhouse gases than women.

A new study, published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology on 19 July, compared the carbon footprint of both single men and single women before and after both groups made sustainable swaps to their lifestyles, such as taking a train to their holiday destination instead of an aeroplane, and switching out dairy for plant-based products.

Researchers concluded that even after making changes to reduce their emissions, single men still emitted 18 per cent more greenhouses gases than women.

Annika Carlsson Kanyama of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, who led the study, said the findings show it is important to consider the differences between men and women when drafting policy surrounding the climate crisis.

“I’m surprised more studies have not been done about the gender differences in environmental impact. There are quite clear differences and they are not likely to go away in the near future,” she told The Guardian.

The UN has previously deemed that the climate crisis is not a gender-neutral issue, finding that disparities in economic opportunities, as well as societal, cultural and religious norms, render women more vulnerable to its effects. One 2016 report found that 80 per cent of people displaced by the climate crisis globally are women.

Here are five ways men contribute more to the climate crisis than women.

It’s not how much money they spend, it’s how they spend it

Ahead of the swap to low-emission alternatives, researchers in Sweden found that men, on average, were emitting almost 2000kg more greenhouse gases than women per year.

The study noted that while there was not much economic disparity between the groups – men only spent two per cent more money than women – men’s expenditure patterns drove their carbon footprint up by 16 per cent.

Women tended to spend more on low-emitting products and services, such as healthcare, furnishings and clothes, while men spent 70 per cent of their money on products that lead to high greenhouse gas emissions, such as fuel.

They take more holidays

According to the European Federation for Transport and Environment, the aviation industry is responsible for almost five per cent of global warming. In 2019, airplane flights produced 915 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Of those men and women who took part in the latest study, holidays accounted for approximately a third of emissions for both groups, but men’s holidays caused more emissions than women’s, primarily because they take more of them.

Men are also more likely to travel to their holidays by either aeroplane or car, which are both greenhouse emission heavy options. As a result, they spend 35 per cent more on holidays than women, on items such as fuel and other car maintenance.

They drive longer distances

The latest figures recorded by the Department for Transports National Travel Survey found that while men take fewer car journeys than women in the UK, they travel longer distances. Overall, men travel approximately 670 more miles by car than women per year.

A 2020 study that looked at the way almost 50,000 men and women travel in New Zealand found similar results.

Researchers at the University of Otago, in Wellington, concluded that while women made more car journeys than men, their trips were shorter by seven to 10 miles. They were also more likely to use public transport, leading to a smaller carbon footprint.

Some men think being environmentally conscious is ‘unmanly’

In 2017, researchers at Utah State University and the University of Notre Dame carried out seven experiments on more than 2,000 American and Chinese men and women to determine whether being eco-friendly is perceived as being feminine.

The study found that most men associated environmentally-friendly behaviour with being feminine, while both men and women judged eco-friendly products and consumers as more feminine than those who are not environmentally conscious.

In one experiment, both men and women described a person using a reusable canvas bag at the grocery store as more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag. In another, men and women said they felt more feminine after doing something good for the environment.

Fewer men are vegan

According to Greenpeace UK, the agriculture industry and deforestation make up a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, while animal farming is responsible for 60 per cent of emissions from agriculture.

A 2014 survey of 11,000 vegans in the US found that men make up just 24 per cent of the demographic. In the UK, a 2020 survey by Our Sporting Life estimated that 8.1 per cent of women in the UK are vegan, compared with 5.9 per cent of men.

The latest study, led by Kanyama, found that when groups of both men and women swapped meat and dairy for plant-based alternatives, their emissions were reduced by 32–38 per cent. As women tended to eat more dairy than men, to begin with, their carbon emissions were reduced more when they switched to dairy alternatives.

The study found that emissions from the sourcing of all vegetables, whether local or not, were low. “Thus, it is the change to buying plant-based options instead of meat and dairy products that contributes most of the emissions reductions,” researchers said.

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