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To cool a sweltering earth: Does energy efficiency improvement offset the climate impacts of lifestyle?

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Adua, Lazarus


Energy Policy, Volume 38, Number 10, p.5719-5732 (2010)



As technical efficiency improvement in energy use remains a touchstone measure to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, there is substantial concern about whether this approach can offset the large and expanding impacts of human actions. Critics contend that without adjustments to the prevailing consumptive lifestyle, energy efficiency improvement will generate only token reductions in GHG emissions. I address this concern by examining the extent to which technical efficiency improvement in energy use offsets the impacts of housing-related lifestyle on GHG emissions. I build from two perspectives, the physicalñtechnicalñeconomic models that consider energy efficiency improvement as a potent strategy to curb residential energy consumption, and the lifestyle and socialñbehavioral approach, which questions this view. The analyses reveal consistent positive relationship between lifestyle and energy consumption. The results also indicate that energy efficiency improvement has mixed effects on energy consumption. In fact, model-based figures show that technical efficiency improvement in energy use leads to slightly higher energy consumption if it is not accompanied by adjustments to lifestyle.