Individual Carbon Emissions: The Low-Hanging Fruit
Michael P. Vandenbergh
Vanderbilt University - Law School
Vanderbilt University, Center for Environmental Management Studies
Jonathan M. Gilligan
Vanderbilt University - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
July 16, 2008
UCLA Law Review, Vol. 55, 2008
Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 08-36
The individual and household sector generates roughly 30 to 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and is a potential source of prompt and large emissions reductions. Yet the assumption that only extensive government regulation will generate substantial reductions from the sector is a barrier to change, particularly in a political environment hostile to regulation. This Article demonstrates that prompt and large reductions can be achieved without relying predominantly on regulatory measures. The Article identifies seven "low-hanging fruit:" actions that have the potential to achieve large reductions at less than half the cost of the leading current federal legislation, require limited up-front government expenditures, generate net savings for the individual, and do not confront other barriers. The seven actions discussed in this Article not only meet these criteria, but also will generate roughly 150 million tons in emissions reductions and several billion dollars in net social savings. The Article concludes that the actions identified here are only a beginning, and it identifies changes that will be necessary by policymakers and academicians if these and other low-hanging fruit are to be picked.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 61
Keywords: environment, climate change, carbon, individual behavior, informational regulationAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 21, 2008 ; Last revised: July 25, 2008
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