A Big Fat Stigma: Does Obesity Really Increase Global Warming?

From the Department of Highly Questionable Scientific Claims comes this theory: Obese people are responsible for global warming.

The New York Times has a great article (and an even better cartoon) about researchers at the University of Illinois who have linked obese Americans to global warming.

Their premise goes like this: As America grows fatter, we need more gas to haul all that extra poundage around. They say that it costs us (I kid you not) billions of gallons of oil each year.

Uh-ho, I thought, does this mean that the chocolate croissant I indulged in earlier today will have lasting global consequences? Are the ten pounds I'd like to lose contributing to raising temperatures? Could skipping a workout somehow be responsible for the melting ice caps?

Fortunately, most health experts (and thinking people everywhere) don't seem to put much stock in the idea. The article questioned the rationale (if not the math) behind the claim and cited several obesity experts who quickly dismissed it. They also pointed out that this was the latest example of how overweight people — who now comprise 64 percent of our population — are routinely scapegoated and stigmatized.

In the end, it seems that the real problem isn't that fat people are to blame for global warming. It's that we're far too willing to blame fat people for global warming — and just about everything else.

It gets worse. A more credible study (in my opinion, anyway) from a well-regarded obesity center at Yale University found that when people are stigmatized for being overweight, many say that it causes them to eat more.

Discriminating against overweight Americans doesn't prompt anyone to shed pounds or improve their health. If anything, it worsens the situation. Apparently, being blamed for the world's problems is is not a great motivator either.

Besides, how could global warming compare to things that truly motivate us ... like feeling healthy or wanting to fit into a pair of jeans from high school.

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