The Situationist

The Situational Consequences of Consumption

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 5, 2008

Douglas Kysar and Michael Vandenbergh have just posted a fascinating paper, “Climate Change and Consumption,” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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To achieve the level of greenhouse gas emissions reductions called for by climate change experts, officials and policy analysts may need to develop an unfamiliar category of regulated entity: the consumer. Although industrial, manufacturing, retail, and service sector firms undoubtedly will remain the focus of climate change policy in the near term, individuals and households exert a greenhouse footprint that seems simply too large for policymakers to ignore in the long term. This paper, written as a foreword for the Environmental Law Reporter’s symposium issue, “Climate Change and Consumption,” emerges from an interdisciplinary conference of the same title held at Vanderbilt University in April 2008. The paper begins by providing an overview of the limited role that consumer behavior and decision making has played in environmental law to date. It then describes theoretical and empirical frameworks for understanding the consumer and consumption that could be deployed to inform law and policy if, as we predict, the consumer becomes a much more significant target of environmental regulation. The paper concludes by summarizing the symposium articles, which range widely across disciplines and areas of focus, but which reflect a common belief that the carbon-constrained consumer is worthy of significant academic and policy attention.

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For some related Situationist posts, see ” The Situation of Ethical Consumption” and “The Need for a Situationist Morality.”

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One Response to “The Situational Consequences of Consumption”

  1. Ellie said

    I should download the entire paper before I make a comment, but I just have to say that there is a lot of social injustice to eco-friendly products. For one thing, greenwashing (advertising products as eco friendly when they’re not) is killing the chances of environmental improvement. It should be illegal and flagged as false advertising.

    Also, why should the consumer be motivated to buy something that costs 4 times as much? $7.50 for organic butter, are you kidding me?? I’m earning a master’s degree in conservation biology but I cannot afford a hybrid and I can barely afford to eat when I buy organic. People living in poverty have to tolerate all types of pollution, while they would starve if they had to shop at Whole Foods.

    If the USDA wants to charge over $1,000 per year for farmers to be certified organic than only big Agri will survive. Government has to help local businesses survive before they can expect the consumer to pay outrageous prices for eco-friendly products.

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