Review Article

Opportunities and insights for reducing fossil fuel consumption by households and organizations

  • Nature Energy 1, Article number: 16043 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nenergy.2016.43
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Abstract

Realizing the ambitious commitments of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) will require new ways of meeting human needs previously met by burning fossil fuels. Technological developments will be critical, but so will accelerated adoption of promising low-emission technologies and practices. National commitments will be more achievable if interventions take into account key psychological, social, cultural and organizational factors that influence energy choices, along with factors of an infrastructural, technical and economic nature. Broader engagement of social and behavioural science is needed to identify promising opportunities for reducing fossil fuel consumption. Here we discuss opportunities for change in households and organizations, primarily at short and intermediate timescales, and identify opportunities that have been underused in much of energy policy. Based on this survey, we suggest design principles for interventions by governments and other organizations, and identify areas of emphasis for future social science and interdisciplinary research.

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Acknowledgements

The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, nor of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Portions of this work have been supported by UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant EP/L024557/1.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 500 Fifth Street NW, Washington DC 20001, USA.

    • Paul C. Stern
  2. Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Høgskoleringen 1, 7491 Trondheim, Norway.

    • Paul C. Stern
  3. Social and Environmental Research Institute, PO Box 1487, 01060 Northampton, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Paul C. Stern
  4. Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK.

    • Kathryn B. Janda
  5. School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology, 685 Cherry Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA.

    • Marilyn A. Brown
  6. University of Groningen, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Grote Kruisstraat 2/I, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands.

    • Linda Steg
  7. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Building 90-2128, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

    • Edward L. Vine
  8. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon 97207, USA.

    • Loren Lutzenhiser

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul C. Stern.