Divorce Your Spouse, Harm The Environment – or – “How an English King Killed The Planet 500 Years Ago”


“Environmental Impacts of Divorce” (pdf here) reads the title of an accepted manuscript soon to be published the highly accoladed journal PNAS (press release)

You meet the love of your life, you marry them – you move into one house. That’s one house to heat, and one house to supply potable water to – see where I’m going here?

A statistical remedy: Fall back in love. Cohabitation means less urban sprawl and softens the environmental hit.

Some stats from the paper’s abstract:

  • In 12 chosen countries, if every divorced individual remarried, there would be over 7 million fewer households.
  • The number of rooms per person is 33-95% higher in divorced households than married households
  • In the US, divorced households use 42-61% more resources than their (un)happily married counterparts
  • In the US , 73 billion KWh of electricity would have been saved in 2005 had every divorced person remarried, as well as 627 billion gallons of freshwater

Yea, I’ll say it – Bullshit. What do you think? It does make some sense – sense that no one bothered to look into until now – but really, its addressing a much older and larger problem: do we live alone or together?

Ok, time for back-of-the-envelope mathematics. Assuming 100% of the energy required for these households is from coal (worse case scenario), and assuming 207 lb C are released for every 15 million Btu of energy (convert BTu to KWh here; thus turns into ~2.75e-8 kg C per KWh), then those 73 billion KWh (sounds big doesn’t it) translates into ~2 tonnes carbon per year.

This a veritable drop in the US anthropogenic carbon emissions bucket of ~2 million tonnes C per year. What about water use? Well, 627 billion US gallons converts to the equivalent of ~0.5% of the total volume of Lake Erie.

Okay, the author’s don’t claim Divorce is causing climate change, but rather, “The results suggest that mitigating the impacts of resource-inefficient lifestyles such as divorce helps to achieve global environmental sustainability”

Sure, I’ll give them that.

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: davidsemeniuk.com