Why Grandma And Grandpa Deserve Some Of The Blame For Climate Change

Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute have calculated the average CO2 emissions per capita by age and have found that the most emissions are produced by people in their early to mid-60s.

The golden years leaves its carbon footprint (Symo0)
The golden years leaves its carbon footprint (Symo0)


MUNICH - Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute have calculated the average CO2 emissions per capita by age and have found that the most emissions are produced by people in their early to mid sixties.

When calculating CO2 emissions, energy and climate researchers take the growth of the world's population and increasing affluence in emerging countries into account. But there's one aspect of demographics that has not been taken into account before: aging populations in the industrial countries and an increasing number of older persons in emerging economies. The Planck results show that the demographic change has an impact on emissions.

Consumption habits are different for different age groups, and hence so is the amount of CO2 that a person produces indirectly by what he or she consumes.

People in their sixties often have a relatively high income and so can afford more: they drive and fly more than younger people, and have bigger living spaces that have to be lit and heated. The researchers used U.S. data about age-related consumption patterns because it was easier to access, but the economic-demographic model the results are based on is also valid for other industrial countries, said the head of the research team, Emilio Zagheni. According to Zagheni, humans begin life producing nearly two tons of CO2 per capita per year, and this figure goes up steeply until they are nine years old.

By a person's mid-20s, the curve flattens out or even goes down a bit at around 10 tons, but then between ages 63 and 65 reaches a high point of 14.9 tons. After that the curve descends again. At age 82, when calculations stop, the amount is 13.1 tons and, the researchers say, continues to diminish with age.

The team gathered data about nine energy-intensive products that produce high amounts of CO2, such as gas, heating oil, electricity and plane trips. Every dollar spent on electricity generates 8.7 kilos of CO2. For gas the result is 6 kilos. The CO2 life curve reflects consumption of such goods over a lifetime weighed against CO2 emissions per dollar.

The turning point, says Zagheni, is when people start spending more on health care. Health services are often less energy-intensive than are other goods and services, and are so costly there is little left over for other things.

Read the full story in German by Wolfgang W. Merkel

Photo - Symo0

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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