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A behavioral rebound effect

Zack Dorner ()

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2019, vol. 98, issue C

Abstract: Pro-environmental behaviors are an important avenue for mitigating environmental impacts. Technological improvements are also a vital tool for reducing environmental damage from consumption. However, their benefits are partially offset by the direct rebound effect, whereby a consumer rationally responds to an increase in resource use efficiency by consuming more. This paper investigates whether technological improvement might also reduce behaviorally motivated mitigation of environmental damage. A behavioral rebound effect operates through two channels. First, pro-environmental effort is reduced after a decrease in marginal environmental damage. Second, moral licensing reduces pro-environmental effort further when technological change is endogenous. I develop a novel real effort laboratory experiment to identify these behaviors. I find a positive behavioral rebound effect. I also find evidence consistent with moral licensing, which is strongest among subjects with a higher degree of pro-environmental attitudes and beliefs. Subjects’ baseline level of pro-environmental effort is driven by beliefs about social norms.

Keywords: Charity; Environmental externality; Laboratory experiment; Mitigation; Moral licensing; Offsetting; Pro-environmental behaviors; Public goods; Rebound effect; Social norms (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D62 D64 Q40 Q55 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2019.102257

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Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is currently edited by M.A. Cole, A. Lange, D.J. Phaneuf, D. Popp, M.J. Roberts, M.D. Smith, C. Timmins, Q. Weninger and A.J. Yates

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