The Role of High-Socioeconomic-Status People in Locking in or Rapidly Reducing Energy-Driven Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Kristian S. Nielsen*, Kimberly A. Nicholas, Felix Creutzig, Thomas Dietz, Paul C. Stern

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


People with high socioeconomic status disproportionally affect energy-driven greenhouse gas emissions directly through their consumption and indirectly through their financial and social resources. However, few climate change mitigation initiatives have targeted this population segment, and the potential of such initiatives remains insufficiently researched. In this Perspective, we analyse key characteristics of high-socioeconomic-status people and explore five roles through which they have a disproportionate impact on energy-driven greenhouse gas emissions and potentially on climate change mitigation, namely as consumers, investors, role models, organizational participants and citizens. We examine what is known about their disproportionate impact via consumption and explore their potential influence on greenhouse gas emissions through all five roles. We suggest that future research should focus on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by high-socioeconomic-status people and to align their investments, organizational choices and actions as social and political change agents with climate change mitigation goals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Energy
Pages (from-to)1011–1016
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

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