Want to fight climate change? Don’t work so hard

Want to fight climate change? Don’t work so hard


Here’s one way to stop global warming: SMASH CAPITALISM!

That is how I choose to read a study released this week by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which found that switching to a “more European” work schedule, i.e. working fewer hours and taking more vacation, could prevent as much as half of “global warming that is not already locked in.” From U.S. News:

“The relationship between [shorter work hours and lower emissions] is complex and not clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” writes economist David Rosnick, author of the study. Rosnick says some of that reduction can be attributed to fewer operating hours in factories and other workplaces that consume high levels of energy. …

Rosnick says a move toward the European system would result in a trade-off of up to one quarter of income gains in exchange for increased leisure time and vacation. His best-case scenario, which predicts prevention of up to a 1.3 degree Celsius temperature increase, assumes that Americans would begin working about 0.5 percent less each year, starting with a 10-hour reduction in 2013. “We can get a similar amount of work done as productivity and technology improves,” he says. “It’s something we have to decide as a country—there are economic models in which individuals get to decide their hours and are still similarly productive as they are now.”

Rosnick didn’t consider the impact of telecommuting, so it’s not clear how emissions might be affected by fewer people driving to their workplaces, or by companies expecting telecommuters to put in longer hours.

But if everyone did work less, that could mean reductions in all kinds of pollution and pillaging. I don’t see “Smash Capitalism!” catching on at Chevron, though. Maybe “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Capitalism”?

Susie Cagle writes and draws news for Grist. She also writes and draws tweets for



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Want to fight climate change? Don’t work so hard

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