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.
Greenhouse gas emissions