The Role of Individual and Household Behavior in Decarbonization

47 Environmental Law Reporter

Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-52

23 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2017

See all articles by Michael P. Vandenbergh

Michael P. Vandenbergh

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Paul C. Stern

The National Academies - National Research Council (NRC)

Date Written: November 1, 2017


This Article asks: why does household behavior matter for deep decarbonization, and how can laws, policies, and programs that target behavior change be employed to facilitate decarbonization? Individuals and households can affect carbon emissions in multiple ways through their behavior as environmental activists, by offering support or opposition to environmental public policies in their citizen roles, by exerting influence within organizations of which they are a part, by making investment decisions based on carbon considerations, and by acquiring and using energy and carbon-emitting goods and services or meeting their needs in ways that do not emit greenhouse gases. Each of these roles can be critical for achieving deep decarbonization. Our primary, although not exclusive, focus is on the roles of individuals and households as consumers, both of energy and of goods and services that have carbon footprints through their life cycles.

The Article explores the implications of insights about behaviors affecting individual and household energy use, particularly from the non-economic social and behavioral sciences, for legal and policy interventions intended to achieve the goal of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) the reduction of net U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. We examine the role that such behavior plays (explicitly and implicitly) in the four DDPP pathways, and we explore additional opportunities for behavioral interventions to contribute to achieving deep decarbonization.

Keywords: Household behavior, Decarbonization, Carbon emissions, DDPP

Suggested Citation

Vandenbergh, Michael P. and Stern, Paul C., The Role of Individual and Household Behavior in Decarbonization (November 1, 2017). 47 Environmental Law Reporter, Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-52, Available at SSRN:

Michael P. Vandenbergh (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Paul C. Stern

The National Academies - National Research Council (NRC)

United States

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