Your Drop in The Bucket Counts – Climate Change and The Economy

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
— Mother Teresa

From our first post in this series, we identified that research shows 80% of Americans see Global Warming as a threat, yet only 30% feel personal responsibility for our environment. 

As we asked in that post “Why are most of us concerned about environmental issues and climate change yet do not feel personally responsible?”

Could it be we do not see the connection between our individual choices and the cumulative effect it has on our world? 

It's easy to feel the personal choices we make in our small corners of the world make little difference to the Earth as a whole.  We are discovering quite dramatically that this is not so. 

According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, 70% of the US economy is directly driven by individual consumer spending.  That number has risen pretty consistently since 1980 when it was at 64%.  In fact, as our collective purchasing power increases, the largest increase in personal consumption expenses is in durrable goods (furniture, computers, tv’s, etc) which has seen an increase in spending that has outpaced the overall GDP growth rate 2:1.  The upshot of this is that not only does our day-to-day spending as individual consumers impact our national economy – that impact has continued to grow, with manufactured goods receiving the largest increase.  So, what does this have to do with our environment? 

A comparison of US economic data against greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 through 2013 shows a pretty closely associated relationship between total US economy, energy consumed, and greenhouse gas emissions.  Through those 4 decades, year-to-year growth or reduction of the economy, energy consumption, and greeenhouse gas emissions always move in similar directions – though perhaps to less extremes.  Whatever direction our economy is moving, our power consumption points in the same direction. 

Though this may not be an earth shattering observation, it clearly underscores the direct linkage between our spending as consumers, our economy, our total national energy consumption and our greenhouse gas emissions.

So, maybe it's an understanding of the wider impact of our choices that will help us feel more personally responsible for change.  It's a good start, but there may be more to it.  We’ll explore a couple more thoughts on this over the next couple posts.

Please let us know what you think is behind us having a low sense of responsibility on issues we seem to care strongly about!