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Energy, carbon dioxide and consumer choice

Barrett, M; (1992) Energy, carbon dioxide and consumer choice. UCL (University College London), WWF International: Switzerland. Green open access

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Abstract

Analysis of need:If the threat of climate change because of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission is accepted, then important economic, technological and social adaptations will be needed to avert the threat. Numerous studies have looked at the technological and economic strategies for the control of one of the principal greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide: few look at how control might be achieved through social adaptation in terms of changes in behaviour or lifestyle. This study is an attempt to look at the potential reduction in energy use and carbon emission due to relatively minor changes in lifestyle.The global carbon problem:The scientific consensus is that to limit the rate and final increase in global temperature, annual carbon dioxide emission will have to be reduced by 60% to 80% as compared to 1990 by around the end of the next century. During this time, the world population may more than double. If it is assumed that equity in terms of per capita carbon emissions will eventually be achieved, then the per capita carbon emissions of most rich countries have to fall by over 90% from current levels. The limits of technical measures:Conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are vital elements in strategies which aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, these technical measures run into increasing marginal economic and environmental cost with increasing levels of implementation. In practical terms, this makes it difficult to reach reductions of over 90% with these means, at least with known technologies. It is therefore necessary to appraise how changes in people's behaviour and lifestyle might contribute to carbon emission control.Lifestyle change:Certain aspects of lifestyle are predicated on the consumption of goods and services, the provision of which has a physical impact on the environment. The enjoyment of warm buildings and private transport are examples of such. An analysis of the UK shows that minor lifestyle changes including wearing better clothes and buying smaller slower cars could reduce carbon emission by around 25% quite rapidly. A proportional reduction of this order may be made even if quite high levels of energy conservation are assumed. When such lifestyle changes are applied to other rich countries, similar emission reductions may be made, and lifestyle takes on global significance in terms of an element in carbon emission control strategies. A separate study is needed to detail how people's lifestyle and general patterns of consumption might be influenced. This study does however identify some of the approaches which might be taken.

Type: Report
Title: Energy, carbon dioxide and consumer choice
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Additional information: Imported via OAI, 7:29:01 20th Jun 2007
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/3504
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