Putting America On a Carbon Diet: Challenges and Recommendations

Open Access
Bakos, Delanie Suzanne
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Lisa Elizabeth Bolton, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jennifer Chang Coupland, Honors Advisor
  • carbon diet
  • calibration
  • social capital
  • carbon emissions
  • climate change
The earth is quickly reaching its limits on the amounts of carbon emissions it can sustain. Consumers must begin to do their part to reduce these emissions at a household level. This research examines the motivation and ability needed for consumers to begin a “carbon diet.” The challenge of motivating consumers reflects the role of social influence in both the community, and in the current controversy surrounding climate change. The ability is examined through calibration and an empirical study. The empirical study measured the “miscalibration” of consumers to accurately and confidently rank 15 energy-saving scenarios by carbon emissions. The study also measured how likely consumers were to adopt each of the 15 energy-saving scenarios. Since participants were unable to appropriately rank the effectiveness of each scenario at reducing emissions, it was concluded that consumers are not properly calibrated, or miscalibrated, on the topic of household carbon emissions. This is significant because ability is needed to both accurately measure carbon emissions, as well as understand which scenarios are most effective in reducing emissions. The survey suggests that individuals must be more educated on the topics of carbon emissions before substantial progress can be made.