Individual Behavior and Climate Policy

November 2nd, 2007

Posted by: admin

Michael Vandenbergh and Anne Steinemann have a paper forthcoming in the NYU Law Review called “The Carbon Neutral Individual.” (a preprint is available on SSRN.)

In this paper, Vandenbergh and Steinemann assess the carbon dioxide output under the direct control of individuals and households, such as driving, space heating, household electricity use, and find that this accounts for 32% of US carbon dioxide emissions. The authors do not attempt a comprehensive footprint (something that would include indirect carbon emissions from manufacturing commodities, grow food, etc.) but focus on those things where the carbon dioxide emissions are most directly connected to the individual’s action (getting in the car or adjusting the thermostat).

The paper notes that just the individual and household carbon emissions in the U.S. are greater than the total emissions of any other nation save China.

Vandenbergh and Steinemann conclude that any climate change mitigation policy must seriously consider measures to stimulate individual behavior change—perhaps by activating personal norms—in addition to more traditional regulatory actions that focus on large industrial actors.

On which topic, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, the Precourt Institute, and the California Institute for Energy and Environment are holding a joint conference next week in Sacramento on Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change

Disclaimer: I work with Vandenbergh, so this is not an unbiased assessment.

One Response to “Individual Behavior and Climate Policy”

  1. bigcitylib Says:

    Interesting. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has on one or two occasions suggested a carbon trading market for individuals, with offsets and the whole shebang. Pretty hard to implement, but it would be neat if I could make a few bucks by individually greening up.