THURSDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- An aging population in the
United States and other developed countries may eventually lead to
reduced emissions of the greenhouse gas known as carbon dioxide
(CO2), according to a German scientist.
CO2 is mainly produced by the burning of fossil fuels, such as
coal, gas and oil in power plants, vehicles and factories,
according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In the new study, Emilio Zagheni of the Max Planck Institute for
Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, found that the average
amount of CO2 produced by a person in the United States increases
until about age 65 and then starts to decrease.
As they approach retirement age, Americans produce more CO2
emissions than at any other time in their lives, about 14.9 metric
tons per person a year. But that amount then begins to decrease,
falling to 13.1 metric tons by age 80.
While no data is available for ages older than 80, it's expected
that CO2 emissions continue to fall after that age, the researcher
This finding is important because life expectancy in the United
States is expected to increase from 78.3 years in 2010 to 83.1
years in 2050, and it's believed life expectancy in other developed
nations will be even higher.
For the study, Zagheni outlined the lifetime changes in
individual CO2 emissions. First, they increase with age and income.
Middle-aged adults drive cars and fly more often and use more
electricity than young people.
But this changes as many people grow older. Elderly people tend
to spend more than younger adults, but a growing portion of this
spending is for health care. This has a double effect on their CO2
emissions. Health care services generally produce low levels of
greenhouse gases and older people have less money to spend on
energy-intensive goods and activities.
Older adults tend to spend more time at home, which leads to
increased consumption of electricity and gas. This home energy use
tends to plateau at about age 80, the researcher said.
The proportion of people 65 and older worldwide is expected to
increase from about 8 percent currently to about 13 percent by
2030, according to the United Nations.
The World Health Organization outlines the links between
climate change and health.