November 15 , 2006. 3:00-4:30pm. Porter Hall 223D, Carnegie Mellon University

Decreasing Demand: Facilitating Energy Conservation Using Individual Behavior

Presenter: Shahzeen Attari, Civil and Environmental Engineering & Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract: CO2 emissions may reach a tipping point in the future, beyond
which catastrophic environmental and social degradation will be unavoidable.
In order to decrease CO2 emissions per capita, many scientists have
addressed supply side methods using carbon reduction technologies. With
population increasing, and rising energy demand in developing countries, the
need to address demand side methods for reducing CO2 emissions per capita is
vital.

There are two main camps for demand side management. There are those who
believe technology will provide sufficient solutions for addressing the
problem. There are others who recommend a fundamental shift in the culture
of consumption that can be addressed only by behavioral changes among
consumers.

For individuals to assume personal responsibility and thereby decrease their
CO2 emissions, they must first become aware of their energy consumption. The
study has three main components: a pre and post survey to detect long term
behavior changes, pre and post weekly logs to detect short term behavior
changes and an intervention to facilitate behavior changes. The intervention
employs open ended telephone interviews to ask subjects: What do you do to
conserve energy in your lifestyle and why? What could you do to conserve
energy and why do you choose not to act?

We hypothesize that asking why and why not will raise cognitive dissonance
and make energy conserving behaviors more salient. This may lead to positive
behavior changes that decrease energy consumption and CO2 emissions per
capita.