The current impetus on carbon reduction and green energy usage can be traced back to 2010 when global carbon emissions were announced to be at their highest ever level. Now whilst that certainly won’t have come as a surprise it did bring the problem to light.
Having set the scene, the reduction of household energy consumption in the developed world is a key focus for plans to reduce carbon emissions. Interestingly Britain seems to be among the front runners with regard to actually taking action. These days most streets up and down the country have more than adequate recycling provisions and the Governments “green deal” is aiming to insulate millions of homes, thus reducing emissions and saving householders money.
On the other hand a recently published paper featured in the Energy Policy Journal, indicates that even the most basic carbon reducing action is not always as beneficial as it seems. This boils down to cause and effect, as by making a positive change to help reduce emissions it leaves opportunity for other changes to occur, not necessarily positive. For instance if a homeowner replaces all the bulbs in their house with energy efficient bulbs, then chooses to take advantage of the savings and leave the bulbs on for longer than they would have previously, then the carbon saving is going to be reduced.
Worse still some situations have been highlighted where by so-called carbon saving methods have actually caused a rise in total emissions. The study was carried out by Dr Druckman and her colleagues, who analysed several patterns on a hypothetical model of typical household behaviour. Working on the assumption that saved money will be spent elsewhere, the group examined carbon saving behaviours and asked what happens next.
Findings showed that overall only around 66% of the calculated reductions associated with typical energy reducing actions such as reducing waste and lowering the thermostat occur. The study suggested that any money saved on the monthly bills is then available for eating out or a new TV. Another option though is a new energy efficient fridge which would help continue the reduction, but the group found that savings could also be spent on a holiday abroad thus completely negating the whole process.
Even though the author’s themselves are stressing that it is based on a model the findings do have certain implications. There’s no point in focusing on individual changes if related actions undo any savings.
Its clear that we as people can be badgered into making specific changes, but in order for a nation to take on a low-carbon way of life, we will need to choose that for ourselves.