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PREFACE i Environmentally Significant Consumption RESEARCH DIRECTIONS Paul C. Stern, Thomas Dietz, Vernon W. Ruttan, Robert H. Socolow, and James L. Sweeney, editors Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1997
NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS â¢ 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W. â¢ Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to proce- dures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This study was supported by Contract No. C R 823894-01 between the National Acad- emy of Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Contract No. 50 DKNA 5-0005 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Environmentally significant consumption : research directions / Paul C. Stern ... [et al.], editors ; Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-309-05598-9 (pbk.) 1. Consumption (Economics)âResearch. 2. Environmental policyâ Research. I. Stern, Paul C., 1944- . II. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change. HB801.E66 1997 333.7âdc21 97-4847 CIP Additional copies of this report are available for sale from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Box 285, Washington, D.C. 20055. Call 800-624-6242 or 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area). This report is also available on line at http://www.nap.edu. Printed in the United States of America. Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
COMMITTEE ON THE HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF GLOBAL CHANGE DIANA LIVERMAN (Chair), Latin American Center, University of Arizona ERIC J. BARRON, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University PAUL EPSTEIN, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University BONNIE McCAY, Department of Human Ecology, Cook College, Rutgers University EMILIO MORAN, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University RONALD R. RINDFUSS, Department of Sociology and Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill EDWARD PARSON, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University VERNON W. RUTTAN, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota ROBERT H. SOCOLOW, Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, Princeton University JAMES L. SWEENEY, Department of Engineering-Economic Systems, Stanford University EDWARD FRIEMAN (Ex Officio), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego ORAN R. YOUNG (Ex Officio), Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth College PAUL C. STERN, Study Director HEATHER SCHOFIELD, Senior Program Assistant iii
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Contents PREFACE vii 1 CONSUMPTION AS A PROBLEM FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 1 Paul C. Stern, Thomas Dietz, Vernon W. Ruttan, Robert H. Socolow, and James L. Sweeney 2 TOWARD A WORKING DEFINITION OF CONSUMPTION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND POLICY 12 Paul C. Stern 3 TRACKING THE FLOWS OF ENERGY AND MATERIALS 26 Introduction, 26 Consuming Materials: The American Way, 29 Iddo K. Wernick Wastes and Emissions in the United States, 40 David T. Allen Carbon Emissions from Travel in the OECD Countries, 50 Lee J. Schipper Structural Economics: A Strategy for Analyzing the Implications of Consumption, 63 Faye Duchin v
vi CONTENTS 4 EXAMINING THE DRIVING FORCES 73 Introduction, 73 Social Structure, Culture, and Technology: Modeling the Driving Forces of Household Energy Consumption, 77 Loren Lutzenhiser Environmental Impacts of Population and Consumption, 92 Thomas Dietz and Eugene A. Rosa Cross-National Trends in Fossil Fuel Consumption, Societal Well-Being, and Carbon Releases, 100 Eugene A. Rosa Emulation and Global Consumerism, 110 Richard R. Wilk Cultural and Social Evolutionary Determinants of Consumption, 116 Willett Kempton and Christopher Payne 5 STRATEGIES FOR SETTING RESEARCH PRIORITIES 124 Paul C. Stern, Thomas Dietz, Vernon W. Ruttan, Robert H. Socolow, and James L. Sweeney ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS 138
Preface In scientific and political debates about the social causes of global change, blame for environmental degradation is often placed on the rapid growth in population numbers, particularly in the developing world. However, many social scientists have argued that per capita consumption in developed countries such as the United States is an equally serious cause of environmental degradation. The signing of international agree- ments to protect the atmosphere, such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change, has brought the analysis of consumption into the politi- cal arena. Developing countries have blamed northern consumption of fossil fuels for greenhouse gas emissions, and critics have pointed out that a child born in the United States will consume, on average, 10 times the resources and produce 10 times the pollution of a child born in Bangladesh or Bolivia. Late in 1994, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recognizing the environmental importance of consumption and the need for scientific study of the issue, asked the National Research Council for help in defin- ing a research agenda on the global environmental impact of U.S. con- sumption. The National Research Councilâs Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change, which accepted the request, quickly real- ized that although a vast amount of potentially relevant research existed, the amount of empirical work focusing specifically on the environmental impacts of consumption and on the nature and causes of environmentally significant consumption was relatively small. We therefore decided that the most helpful approach would be to convene a small group of active researchers whose work would demonstrate a range of interesting and researchable scientific questions and who could help identify some prom- ising directions for future research. vii
viii PREFACE The committee held a workshop for this purpose in November 1995. The participants included researchers from government and universities. We were pleased that several international agencies and foundations ex- pressed interest in the topic and sent representatives to the workshop. A number of scholars were asked to prepare draft papers that were circu- lated in advance and discussed at the workshop. It was clear from the lively interactions at the workshop that there are a variety of promising conceptual approaches to the study of environmentally significant con- sumption and that future research must address the complex interactions of factors such as technology, economics, culture, public policy, and indi- vidual behavior. This volume includes brief versions of some papers from the workshop and summarizes some of the ideas raised there about research strategies and directions. The papers show that the nature and level of resource consumption in the United States is causing environ- mental change and that consumption is influenced by a wide range of institutions, individual preferences, technologies, and economic policies. Yet there is no consensus on how and why environmentally significant consumption changes. Much could be learned from further quantitative analyses and qualitative case studies of specific consumption activities. Such research could illuminate the anthropogenic causes of environmen- tal change and thus inform choices by government, the private sector, and individual citizens regarding ways to reduce the environmental impacts of consumption and to implement global environmental agreements. We hope that the publication of the results of this workshop will foster fur- ther discussion within the research and policy community and stimulate an expanded and fruitful research agenda on consumption as a factor in environmental and global change. On behalf of the National Research Council Committee on the Hu- man Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, I would like to thank Paul Stern, Thomas Dietz, Vernon Ruttan, Robert Socolow, and James Sweeney for organizing the workshop and editing this volume. I would also like to thank David Rejeski from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for suggesting such an interesting and challenging topic for a workshop. I also wish to thank Eugenia Grohman, Colene Walden, and Heather Schofield, all of whom provided essential help in editing and producing the volume, and Janine Bilyeu, without whose help with logistics and management the workshop would not have been so successful. Diana Liverman, Chair Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change