Work Less, Save the Earth?
Researchers claim reducing our workloads can offset global warming, but how sound is their argument?
Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project
It appears researchers are making the case that you should be working less. Intrigued? Indeed, a major movement in productivity research for the last several years has focused on so-called “strategic renewal” – the idea that taking daytime workouts, short afternoon naps and walks, and more vacations will boost your productivity and job performance.
And now, additional research is making the case that working less won’t just make you more productive, but it could also save the earth. An article in U.S. News and World Report points to some new research by The Center for Economic Policy and Research that claims working less just might reduce carbon emissions. According to the study, if people adopted a “more European” work schedule (read: more time off and more vacations), it could “prevent as much as half of the expected global temperature rise by 2100.”
Economist David Rosnick, author of the study, writes that the correlation 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.”
The developing world, he says, would have to choose between the hours-intensive American model or a more European model, but that selecting the European model would “result in a trade-off of up to one quarter of income gains in exchange for increased leisure time and vacation.” The best-case scenario, he predicts, would prevent up to a 1.3-degree Celsius temperature increase, assuming Americans could work about 0.5 percent less each year, beginning with a 10-hour reduction in 2013.
There are flaws in the research, Rosnick allows. For instance, the study doesn’t take into consideration the rise of telecommuting, which already cuts down on transportation emissions, and there is no way to know what a person would do with their increased leisure time (such as get on an airplane, for instance).
Do you think the research gives a bit more substance to the idea that it may be healthy, and even responsible, to cut down on work, or is the idea too isolated and fraught with conjecture to convince you yet? Weigh in.