Why Men Are Worse for the Planet

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A typical man. Credit: Fox

A guest post from TIME’s Tara Kelly:

There’s a long history of research that reveals women are the greener gender-at least when it comes to their attitudes and preferences. But now a study published by France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economics shows that the fairer sex’s environmental conscience may actually translate into action too. Put simply, men are worse for the planet than women. While the study found French women emit 32.3 kgs of carbon per day, men compare at a whopping 39.3kg-mainly thanks to a carbon intensive diet and their inefficient use of transport.

But this isn’t the first time researchers have found men behaving badly towards the planet.  Back in August 2009, Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, of Sweden, and Riita Räty, of Finland, found similar conclusions. By examining 10 daily activities of both sexes across Germany, Greece, Norway and Sweden, their findings revealed men consumed more meat and processed beverages than women did, used cars more frequently and drove longer distances, resulting in greater carbon emissions. The differences range from six percent in Norway and eight percent in Germany to 22 percent in Sweden and as massive as 39 percent in Greece.

So what explains the difference in behavior between the two sexes? In an interview with Tierramérica, Corinna Altenburg and Fritz Reusswig, of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research offer their take:

In transportation, for example, men make more trips in airplane and automobile, raising considerably their ecological footprint, according to the two experts. That difference could be balanced out in the future to the extent that equal opportunity allows women to climb the labor ladder, while men take on more household duties.

Yet women also tend to be opt for more vegetarian diets, yielding less carbon: “Meanwhile, eating habits follow the gender line: men tend to eat more meat, and women eat more fruits and vegetables—habits that are difficult to change, according to Altenburg and Reusswig.”

But instead of blaming men, Altenburg and Reusswig suggest the solution may be down to questioning social norms. They say creating policies that target the social expectations of men as equally as the traditional environmental objectives we associate with climate change could be the way forward. But redefining the manly diet is also key—especially given the French study found one man’s intake is responsible for 7.98 kg of CO2 emissions per day, while a female is accountable for 6.79 kg per day.