Lots of energy analysts tend to look at emissions as a technical problem that requires a technical solution; build more efficient vehicles, build homes to use less energy. What they don't consider is human behavior. If you've got a hybrid car, the money you save on gas might allow you to drive more. — Lazarus Adua, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Utah
Lots of energy analysts tend to look at emissions as a technical problem that requires a technical solution; build more efficient vehicles, build homes to use less energy. What they don't consider is human behavior. If you've got a hybrid car, the money you save on gas might allow you to drive more. — Lazarus Adua, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Utah

When people think they are already doing right for the environment, they begin to lose sight of other ways in which they harm the environment. They may also feel justified to consume a little bit more. — Lazarus Adua, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Utah
When people think they are already doing right for the environment, they begin to lose sight of other ways in which they harm the environment. They may also feel justified to consume a little bit more. — Lazarus Adua, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Utah

Human behavior sabotages CO2-reducing strategies
To slow down climate change, societies tend to focus on two solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: improving energy efficiency and developing and using renewable energy sources. A new study compared every U.S. state's CO2 emissions with their investment in the two solutions from 2009 to 2016. The authors found no statistically significant difference between energy efficiency improvement and renewable energy development -- both resulted in some reductions in CO2 emissions when considering all societal sectors, although renewable energy investment was slightly more impactful.

"Lots of energy analysts tend to look at emissions as a technical problem that requires a technical solution; build more efficient vehicles, build homes to use less energy. What they don't consider is human behavior. If you've got a hybrid car, the money you save on gas might allow you to drive more," said the study's lead author Lazarus Adua, assistant professor of sociology at the U. "My goal here is to let policymakers know that this rebound effect is a problem, and they need to address it. If you're only paying attention to improving efficiency and investing in renewables, you're not going to solve the problem."

... The study found that increasing renewable energy by 1%, resulted in a 0.69% reduction in CO2 when all sectors were combined. However, the residential sector on its own had the opposite result -- a 1% increase in the amount of renewable energy led to a 0.36% increase in CO2 emissions.On the surface, the result seems counterintuitive. But to sociologist Adua, it makes perfect sense.

"It's unexpected, but it's not very surprising given what I know about human attitudes towards consumption and the use of resources. When people think they are already doing right for the environment, they begin to lose sight of other ways in which they harm the environment. They may also feel justified to consume a little bit more. And before you know it, the benefit of the solar panel is basically canceled out by increased consumption in other areas," said Adua.

... "Every climate change solution has consequences. Investment in renewables means that we must expand mining to get the metals needed for batteries. Some mines being proposed are on land sacred to Native Americans and could cause environmental pollution," said Adua. "My goal is to provide policy makers with as much information as I can to make decisions about how to tackle the climate crisis."


Adua reiterated that focusing solely on technical solutions will fail to solve the climate crisis.

"We need to think about these solutions more holistically, you have to think about restructuring the society in ways that will make it more efficient overall," said Adua. "But when you talk about structural change, people are just thinking, 'that will destroy our way of life.' But if we don't solve that problem today, the environment will change our way of life for us. Maybe not our generation, but our descendants, the environment will change their way of life."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210929112831.htm