Publication Date

2009

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Golam Samdani Fakir

Abstract

This paper provides a critical examination into themes of socio economic status related to consumption while using greenhouse gas emissions as the consumption unit. Nine households from across the socio economic spectrum were interviewed and/or surveyed and provided with personal greenhouse gas inventories (or ‘carbon footprints’). These carbon footprints were compared across low, middle and high income groups and also versus the United States national average. The results indicate low income families emitted, on average, 76% less CO2 and equivalents than their high income neighbors. The qualitative analysis reveals low income groups reported directly experiencing effects of climate change and thus sensed an urgent need to address it while middle and high income groups reported experiencing no effects and sensed no urgency. The qualitative research also includes questions surrounding privilege, financial willingness to address climate change, comfort level discussing the topic and perceptions of government intervention. Results reveal the majority of people are not comfortable discussing global warming, feel the government does not consider climate change a priority, and 44% report they would be agreeable to government mandated changes to facilitate emissions reductions as long as they did not cost ‘too much money’. The results are discussed through the lens of the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework (GDRF). The GDRF addresses the conflict between ensuring the right of individuals to emerge from poverty and to engage in human development with the need to address climate change and to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The GDRF applies a Responsibility and Capacity Indicator (RCI) to households based on their emissions (responsibility) and income (capacity). The RCI addresses the social justice issue of who is more responsible for climate change and who is more capable to bear the burden of addressing it.

Disciplines

Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Sciences

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