What is the potential for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at the household level? Oftentimes people believe that their individual actions may not make much of a dent in reducing harmful greenhouse gases.
However, a new article entitled “Reducing Carbon-Based Energy Consumption through Changes in Household Behavior” by Tom Dietz, Paul Stern and Elke Weber cites that household decisions that directly affect energy consumption (e.g. choices about appliance purchase and use or home heating and cooling) account for more than 30 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions, and a comparable amount of overall energy use. The paper appears in the Winter 2013 issue of Daedalus (the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences). It states that actions by individuals and households to reduce carbon-based energy consumption have the potential to change the picture of U.S. energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in the near term. This potential will, however, only be realized if energy policies and programs replace outmoded assumptions about what drives human behavior by integrating insights from the behavioral and social sciences with those from engineering and economics.