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Socio-metabolic class conflicts in the Anthropocene: Developing a novel class theory based on German population data

Authors
/persons/resource/Antonia.Schuster

Schuster,  Antonia
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

/persons/resource/Ilona.Otto

Otto,  Ilona M.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Schuster, A., Otto, I. M. (in press): Socio-metabolic class conflicts in the Anthropocene: Developing a novel class theory based on German population data. - Capitalism Nature Socialism.


Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_24809
Abstract
The Earth’s population of seven billion consume varying amounts of planetary resources with varying impacts on the environment. We combine the analytical tools offered by the socio-ecological metabolism and class theory and propose a novel social stratification theory to identify the differences and hot spots in individual resource and energy use. The theory is applied to German society and we use per capita greenhouse gas emissions as a proxy for resource and energy use. We use socio-metabolic profiles of individuals from an economic, social and cultural perspective to investigate resource intensive lifestyles. The results show large disparities and inequalities in emission patterns in German society. For example, the greenhouse gas emissions in the lowest and highest emission classes can differ by a magnitude of ten. Income, education, age, gender and regional differences (FRG vs. GDR) result in distinct emission profiles. Class differentiation is also noted as economic, cultural and social factors influence individual carbon footprints. We also analyze the role of digital technologies, regarding resource and energy consumption, as a proxy for cultural capital. Highlighting inequalities within societies is a step towards downscaling carbon emission reduction targets that are key to avoid transgressing climate change planetary boundary. We discuss the results in the context of climate policy implications as well as behavioral changes that are needed to meet climate policy objectives.