Consumers Underestimate the Emissions Associated with Food but are Aided by Labels

Nature Climate Change, Forthcoming

Posted: 24 Jul 2018 Last revised: 16 Jan 2019

See all articles by Adrian Camilleri

Adrian Camilleri

University of Technology Sydney

Richard P. Larrick

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Shajuti Hossain

Duke University

Dalia Echeverri

Duke University

Date Written: January 1, 2019

Abstract

Food production is a major cause of energy use and GHG emissions, and therefore diet change is an important behavioural strategy for reducing associated environmental impacts. However, a severe obstacle to diet change may be consumers’ underestimation of the environmental impacts of different types of food. Here we show that energy consumption and GHG emission estimates are significantly underestimated for foods, suggesting a possible blind spot suitable for intervention. In a second study, we find that providing consumers with information regarding the GHG emissions associated with the life cycle of food, presented in terms of a familiar reference unit (light-bulb minutes), shifts their actual purchase choices away from higher emission options. Thus, although consumers’ poor understanding of the food system is a barrier to reducing energy use and GHG emissions, it also represents a promising area for simple interventions such as a well-designed carbon label.

Keywords: greenhouse gas emissions, energy, food, judgment, environmental behavior

Suggested Citation

Camilleri, Adrian and Larrick, Richard P. and Hossain, Shajuti and Echeverri, Dalia, Consumers Underestimate the Emissions Associated with Food but are Aided by Labels (January 1, 2019). Nature Climate Change, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3206367 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3206367

Adrian Camilleri (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

15 Broadway, Ultimo
PO Box 123
Sydney, NSW 2007
Australia

Richard P. Larrick

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.fuqua.duke.edu/faculty/alpha/larrick.htm

Shajuti Hossain

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Dalia Echeverri

Duke University ( email )

Box 90328
Durham, NC 27708-0328
United States

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