SENCO Sustainable Environment Consultants



Consumption and energy

Most aspects of human life are predicated on the consumption of goods and services which require energy for their provision. The enjoyment of warm buildings, private transport and air travel are examples of such. Physical impacts on the environment arise through direct energy services to the consumer, and because of energy used in the industrial and services sectors in manufacturing goods and providing services.


The scientific consensus is that to limit climate change, global greenhouse gas emission will have to be reduced by 60% over the coming decades.  World population will increase by about half over the next fifty years. Assuming an ethic of equity in per capita carbon dioxide emission allowance, then carbon emission in most rich countries has to fall by over 90% from current levels. To accomplish this, radical technological and social adaptations will be needed.Energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies are vital elements in strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, these technical measures run into greater marginal economic and environmental costs with increasing levels of implementation. In practical terms, this makes it difficult to reach reductions of over 90% with these means, at least with proven technologies.

It is therefore necessary to appraise how changes in people's behaviour and lifestyle might contribute to carbon emission control.Numerous studies have looked at the technological and economic strategies for the control of carbon dioxide, but  few look at how control might be achieved through social adaptation in terms of changes in behaviour or lifestyle.  SENCO carried out a study of the potential reduction in energy use and carbon emission due to relatively minor changes in lifestyle. The SEESCen model estimates the effects of certain lifestyle changes.

An analysis of the UK shows that minor lifestyle changes such as buying less powerful cars could reduce carbon emission by more than 5% within a decade. A proportional reduction of this order may be made even if high levels of energy efficiency are assumed. Similar emission reductions may be made in other rich countries, and lifestyle takes on global significance in terms of an element in carbon emission control strategies.

The report Energy, carbon dioxide and consumer choice  (, Word, 0.3 Mb)for the WorldWide Fund for Nature describes an analysis of consumption in detail.




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