Niamir, L., Kiesewetter, G., Wagner, F., Schöpp, W., Filatova, T., Voinov, A., Bressers, H.

Assessing the macroeconomic impacts of individual behavioral changes on carbon emissions

in Climatic Change, 05.11.2019

Peer Review , Land Use, Infrastructure and Transport

In the last decade, instigated by the Paris agreement and United Nations Climate ChangeConferences (COP22 and COP23), the efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 °C abovepre-industrial levels are expanding. The required reductions in greenhouse gas emissionsimply a massive decarbonization worldwide with much involvement of regions, cities, busi-nesses, and individuals in addition to the commitments at the national levels. Improving end-use efficiency is emphasized in previous IPCC reports (IPCC2014). Serving as the primary‘agents of change’in the transformative process towards green economies, households have akey role in global emission reduction. Individual actions, especially when amplified throughsocial dynamics, shape green energy demand and affect investments in new energy technol-ogies that collectively can curb regional and national emissions. However, most energy-economics models—usually based on equilibrium and optimization assumptions—have a verylimited representation of household heterogeneity and treat households as purely rationaleconomic actors. This paper illustrates how computational social science models can comple-ment traditional models by addressing this limitation. We demonstrate the usefulness ofbehaviorally rich agent-based computational models by simulating various behavioral andclimate scenarios for residential electricity demand and compare them with the business asusual (SSP2) scenario. Our results show that residential energy demand is strongly linked topersonal and social norms. Empirical evidence from surveys reveals that social norms have anessential role in shaping personal norms. When assessing the cumulative impacts of thesebehavioral processes, we quantify individual and combined effects of social dynamics and ofcarbon pricing on individual energy efficiency and on the aggregated regional energy demandand emissions. The intensity of social interactions and learning plays an equally important rolefor the uptake of green technologies as economic considerations, and therefore in addition tocarbon-price policies (top-down approach), implementing policies on education, social andcultural practices can significantly reduce residential carbon emissions.