Planet feels heat of divorce

Times On Line 2 December 07
Unhappy couples used to stick together for the sake of the kids. Now they can make the best of a bad marriage in the name of being environmentally friendly. Scientists have quantified for the first time the extent to which divorce damages the environment. The researchers found that the combined use of electricity across the two new households created rose 53% while water use was up by 42%. Across America – one of 12 countries studied – divorced households used 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2005 that could have been saved if the families had not split up. That is equivalent to about a fifth of Britain’s consumption. Broken couples also increase demand for housebuilding and infrastructure such as new roads. “The global trend of soaring divorce rates has created more households with fewer people, has taken up more space and has gobbled up more energy and water,” said Jianguo Liu of Michigan University, who carried out the latest research. The study, to be published tomorrow in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the average number of rooms per household was between 33% and 95% higher for divorced couples than for married ones. Liu also calculated that America now has an extra 38.5m rooms in houses and apartments built to meet the demand for more accommodation generated by divorce over the past three decades.