Date of Award

Spring 2017


M.S. in Climate Science and Policy


Professor Gautam Sethi

Second Reader

Professor Monique Segarra

Third Reader

Professor Caroline Ramaley


In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, humans need to change how they act toward the environment. Unfortunately, as much as we may want to act in ways that would be best for us and for the environment, we often struggle to do just that due to cognitive biases. Nudge theory attempts to remedy this problem by helping us make the decision that would be in our best interests. To explore this issue, I conduct an extended review of the literature to examine how well nudge theory can be applied to the realm of environmental policy. Specifically, I investigate its ability to successfully influence individuals toward environmentally beneficial decisions. There are several documented instances in which different nudging tools have been implemented effectively. I also examine the discussion of the ethical issues surrounding the use of nudge theory—even in situations in which nudge theory can be used, should it be used? Based on my findings, I recommend that the default option, a type of nudge, be set to the environmentally beneficial option wherever a default option is available. I also recommend creating a nudge unit to determine how nudges can be used in policies where other methods of behavior change (for example, tax incentives) may fail.

Access Control

Open Access