Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Economics

First Advisor

Henning Schwardt

Second Advisor

Chiara Piovani

Third Advisor

Peter Ho

Fourth Advisor

Douglas Allen


Behavior, Biases, Carbon emissions, Climate change, Environment, Nonmonetary incentives


The world is in the midst of an unprecedented environmental crisis driven primarily by human behavior. As the world has globalized, countries have developed, and standards of living have improved, global pollution has skyrocketed and has resulted in a wide range of environmentally destructive outcomes. All paths to environmentally sustainable development involve a dramatic cut in carbon emissions from current day levels. In this thesis, I explore how the omission of behavioral factors from mainstream neoclassical models has contributed to, and can aid in reducing unsustainably high levels of carbon emissions. Throughout the history of economic thought, classical economists such as Smith, Knight, and Fisher explicitly state that humans are prone to acting in a way that is inconsistent with utility and profit optimization models. Despite these warnings, the widespread acceptance of theories reliant on revealed preference with homogenous rational agents led to the normalization of overconsumption and environmentally destructive behavior. In the 1980’s, economists began systematically exposing universal shortcomings in human rationality, many of which directly contribute to unsustainable levels of emissions. Incorporating these biases into mainstream economics presents policy makers with a number of novel, cost-effective tools to curb carbon emissions, and compels a reevaluation of what it means to act rationally.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Thomas C. Gifford


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

99 pgs


Economics, Economic history, Environmental economics