In recent decades, a large part of the U.S. economy has shifted to providing services rather than manufacturing products. Despite the presumption that the change bodes well for the environment, service industries such as the retail trade are creating just as much planet-warming carbon dioxide as the manufacture and operation of motor vehicles do, a new analysis suggests.
Industrial ecologist Sangwon Suh of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul scrutinized the movement of energy, raw materials, and products through various sectors of the economy. In such an analysis, emissions "that happen behind the scenes can then be taken into account," he notes.
In aggregate, all the companies that provide services are directly responsible for less than 5 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, says Suh. However, when researchers also account for emissions that are generated in supporting activities such as the manufacture of equipment and supplies for service industries, some of