"Counting CO2 instead of calories"
People wanting to lose weight should work on their own behaviour first. To some extent, the same also applies to climate protection. At Kiel University, an app is currently being developed to help users keep track of their own energy consumption and its effects on the climate.
Everyone leaves a carbon footprint on the climate. The question is how big it is. Foto: pur.pur
In Kiel, Professor Stefan Hoffmann, economist Dr Wassili Lasarov and doctoral researcher Hanna Reimers are working on this within the "iReliefs” project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. In their work, they are looking specifically at so-called rebound effects, which can be seen time and again in the energy economy. Lasarov describes what this means as follows: "With new technology, cars and also lights are becoming ever more economical and so energy consumption should actually fall. This is, however, not necessarily the case. The fact that mobility or light is becoming cheaper can also trigger an opposite effect."
There is a wealth of examples of such rebound effects. As the new LED bulbs use so little electricity, people leave them on for longer. And if the car runs on less petrol, it will just be driven more and using more HP. But even those who withstand such temptations do not automatically find themselves on the right side in matters of climate protection. "People who treat themselves to a flight to the Bahamas with the money they have saved on electricity and petrol have ultimately achieved precisely the opposite of climate protection," said Hanna Reimers, naming one example of an indirect rebound effect.
According to Dr Lasarov, science has demonstrated at macroeconomic level that, despite all the energy saving technology, overall consumption has to some extent even somewhat increased. However, according to the scientist specialised in marketing and consumer behaviour, the individual level has "not yet been properly tackled".
The plan is to do this now in the three year "iReliefs” project, which is designed to bring together microeconomic and psychologically-based mechanisms of action. Lasarov is convinced that there is definitely a corresponding intelligence requirement. For instance, rising petrol consumption could be related to people driving more. But it could also be explained by increased mobility requirements. "Something like this can only be viewed on an individual basis," stressed the economist.
The plan is to first carry out interviews with representatives from companies that offer bike-sharing or car-sharing. At the same time, people who make use of these options are also to be surveyed. In this way, Hanna Reimers wants to discover possible industry-specific characteristics and also determine how consumers tick individually, what objectives are at the forefront and what other consumer behaviour looks like. The already established Carbon Footprint serves as the indicator for climate behaviour. This CO2 footprint shows, for example, what effect the flight to the Bahamas mentioned above has on the climate.
In contrast to programmes that already provide this calculation, the Kiel app gives feedback in the form of praise or criticism. In addition, users receive motivational tips on how they can improve their behaviour. "In this way, it is similar to apps for losing weight. It is just that our app is about the climate instead of weight and CO2 is counted instead of calories," explained Hanna Reimers.
The app, which is being developed in conjunction with the University of Potsdam and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich), is to be ready for testing at the end of 2019 and fully marketable within three years.
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