What characterizes persons with high and low GHG emissions? Lifestyles, well-being and values among Swedish households
Licentiate thesis, 2014

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be reduced to around a third of the current level before 2050 and approach zero at the end of the century if we are likely to reach the twodegree target. Sweden has sometimes been promoted as a model for the transition towards sustainable emission levels, with reductions of 20 percent between 1990 and 2012, but when embedded emissions from imported goods are accounted for (and exports are excluded) the development instead show an increase by at least 15 percent between 1993 and 2010. The efficiency improvements have been more that counterbalanced by increasing consumption levels. Hence a successful fulfillment of the two-degree climate target probably requires action that goes beyond eco-efficiency, by also considering lifestyles and consumption patterns. In this thesis we have combined different theoretical approaches to analyze individuals’ conditions, lifestyles, well-being and values with respect to their GHG emissions. The first paper analyzes which factors are important to determine individuals’ GHG emissions. Socio-economic, physical and motivational factors are often considered in separate academic disciplines, and our aim is to provide a better understanding of their absolute and relative importance to households’ GHG emissions. We found that net income was the most important variable to explain variance in GHG emissions, followed by the physical variables dwelling type and geographical distances to work and other functions. Motivational factors such as pro-environmental attitudes and norms also affected GHG emissions but to a lesser extent, but some considerations limit the generalizability of these results. The second paper examines the relationship between individuals’ subjective well-being and GHG emissions from consumption. Our results suggest that there is no strong correlation between overall GHG emissions and subjective well-being, and that GHG intensive activities have a low importance for subjective well-being, when compared to social factors such as spending time with friends and family, having a job and being healthy. We also analyze certain behaviors and underlying factors that have been proposed to imply double dividends, and find some tentative confirmation that materialism is related to both lower subjective wellbeing and higher GHG emissions. In the third paper we continue the analysis of materialists’ consumption related GHG emissions, and their concern for the environment. We find no difference between materialists and others with respect to their concern for the environment, but the materialist group emits about 1 ton more GHG emissions per capita and year than the non-materialist group. Somewhat surprisingly, air travel accounts for around two thirds of this difference. Taken together with other results presented in the paper, it seems materialists’ concern for increased status is not specifically expressed through the acquisition of material possessions, and we question the established definition of materialism.

sustainable consumption



Greenhouse gas emissions

Opponent: Annika Carlsson-Kanyama


David Andersson

Mistra Urban Futures

University of Gothenburg

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Greenhouse gas emissions and subjective well-being: An analysis of Swedish households

Ecological Economics,; Vol. 102(2014)p. 75-82

Journal article

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Climate Research


Opponent: Annika Carlsson-Kanyama

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