Academics Worry About The Carbon Footprint Of Crime


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Politicians aren’t concerned enough about the environmental impact of crime and policing, according to an academic study published Monday by the University of Surrey.

The study used computer modeling to estimate that over 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to the emissions of 900,000 British homes, were emitted by crime in England and Wales in 2011.

The largest single sources of CO2 emissions from crime was burglary due to large volume of offences. The criminal justice system aimed at preventing crime was also a major source of emissions and use “money currently spent addressing crime might be spent in the absence of crime.”

The authors even speculated that the if the criminal justice system were eliminated entirely, there’d be fewer CO2 emissions.

“We’ve highlighted some interesting findings, such as the large proportion of the footprint which arises due to burglaries,” Helen Skudder, an engineering doctorate student at Centre for Environmental Strategy of the University of Surrey, wrote in a press release. “Looking at burglary in more detail, we find that emissions not only arise from policing and the criminal justice system response to crime, but also that the carbon arising due to replacement of stolen items is significant.”

Great Britain emitted approximately 415 million metric tons of CO2 in 2014, meaning that crime accounts for roughly 1 percent of total emissions. The U.K.’s CO2 emissions have been falling in recent years, largely due to the transition from coal energy to natural gas.

“The analysis illustrates the complex ways that institutions in society and the associated economic activity shape the impact we have on our climate,” Skudder continued. “We have shown that it is possible to take into account the environmental implications of crime alongside the social and economic costs, as part of crime prevention policy appraisals.”

The research was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Industrial Ecology and received money from British taxpayers.

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