PhD dissertation: Sustainable Living in Systems Change - A holistic approach to model lifestyle changes in Integrated Assessment Models


Research on achieving climate targets focuses strongly on changes in the supply of energy and products and much less on the role changes in demand could play. This thesis highlights that lifestyle changes can substantially contribute to reaching our climate targets. A vital part of the research is the set of developed SLIM (Sustainable Living in Models) scenario narratives across two critical uncertainties: more individualistic or more collectivist values; and more centralised or more distributed support for sustainable lifestyles. Four distinct scenarios of lifestyle and systems change emerge, leading to unique sustainable futures and just transitions. The modelled emission pathways (with the IMAGE integrated assessment model) of the SLIM scenarios show that sustainable living within a supportive system can significantly contribute to achieving our climate targets with less reliance on technological solutions such as carbon dioxide removal technologies. For example, lifestyle changes could reduce passenger transport and residential emissions by about 39% for Global North regions and 27% for Global South regions in 2050 compared to a scenario based on current trends.

This research adopts a multidisciplinary approach by taking both an intent perspective (e.g. motivations for change) and an impact perspective (e.g. outcomes of change). This approach facilitated the development of frameworks and tools to harmonise definitions of lifestyle change and scenarios through workshops with advisors and policymakers. A significant impact of this research is that with the SLIM scenarios’ improved representation of lifestyle changes in integrated assessment models, stakeholders can make more informed decisions about facilitating lifestyles as strategies for mitigating climate change.

Start date and time
End date and time
Utrecht University Hall, Domplein 29
PhD candidate
Nicole Jane van den Berg
Sustainable Living in Systems Change: A holistic approach to model lifestyle changes in Integrated Assessment Models
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. Dr. D.P. van Vuuren
Dr. V. Timmer
Dr. A.F. Hof