If Americans worked less -- like the Europeans do -- the pace of global warming may slow down, thereby saving the planet.
According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR), a progressive Washington DC-based think-tank, by cutting the average 40-hour-plus work-week that is common practice in the U.S., global carbon emissions would be significantly reduced. The group posits that by spending less time commuting, among sundry other items, a “more European” approach to work could "prevent as much as half of the expected global temperature rise by 2100."
Europeans, CEPR indicated, have been cutting down the number of hours their people work (via shorter weekly hours and more vacation and leave time).
“Shorter work hours are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and therefore less global climate change,” the CEPR study noted.
“The relationship between these two variables is complex and not clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
By assuming that up to 60 percent of potential global warming is already “locked-in,” CEPR proposed, the warming that is not already locked in could be reduced by cutting work hours.
“As productivity increases, especially in high-income countries, there is a social choice between taking some of these gains in the form of reduced hours, or entirely as increased production,” wrote economist David Rosnick, lead author of the paper.
“The calculation is simple: fewer work hours means less carbon emissions, which means less global warming.”
However, the researchers concede the reducing work hours in the U.S. would be difficult given the growing income equality in the country. The study pointed out that between 1973 and 2007 a little less than two-thirds of all income gains went to the top one percent of households.
“In this type of economy, the majority of workers would have to take an absolute reduction in their living standards in order work less,” CEPR explained.
According to data from Britain’s Office of National Statistics and EuroStat, the average worker in the European Union put in 37.4 hours at the office or factory in 2011. However, there was a great variance among the countries --- from as low as 30.5 hours in Holland to more than 42 hours in (ironically) Greece.
The EU’s biggest economies fell somewhere in the middle of the pack: Germany (35.6), France (38.0), and UK (36.3).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employed American worked an average of 8.8 hours per day (or 44 hours per week) in 2011
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