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Behavioral Economics and Environmental Policy


  • Fredrik Carlsson


  • Olof Johansson-Stenman

    () (Department of Economics, University of Gothenburg, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden)


This article provides an interpretive survey on implications of insights from behavioral economics for environmental policy. In particular, it discusses whether, and if so how, policy implications based on conventional economic theory have to be modified when insights from behavioral economics are considered. More specifically, it discusses concerns for cooperation, fairness, self-image, social approval, and status. Moreover, it addresses potential crowding-out effects, context-dependent and incoherent preferences, risk misperceptions, ambiguity aversion, and regulator bias. We conclude that behavioral economics has a lot to offer environmental economics and that some normative policy recommendations have to be modified. Yet the most fundamental policy recommendations in environmental economics generally prevail and are sometimes even reinforced through behavioral economics insights.

Suggested Citation

  • Fredrik Carlsson & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2012. "Behavioral Economics and Environmental Policy," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 75-99, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reseco:v:4:y:2012:p:75-99

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Austin, David & Dinan, Terry, 2005. "Clearing the air: The costs and consequences of higher CAFE standards and increased gasoline taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 562-582, November.
    2. Christopher R. Knittel, 2011. "Automobiles on Steroids: Product Attribute Trade-Offs and Technological Progress in the Automobile Sector," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3368-3399, December.
    3. Rubin, Jonathan & Leiby, Paul N. & Greene, David L., 2009. "Tradable fuel economy credits: Competition and oligopoly," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 315-328, November.
    4. Shanjun Li, 2012. "Traffic safety and vehicle choice: quantifying the effects of the ‘arms race’ on American roads," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(1), pages 34-62, January.
    5. Thomas Klier & Joshua Linn, 2012. "New‐vehicle characteristics and the cost of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(1), pages 186-213, March.
    6. Antonio M. Bento & Lawrence H. Goulder & Mark R. Jacobsen & Roger H. von Haefen, 2009. "Distributional and Efficiency Impacts of Increased US Gasoline Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 667-699, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elbaz Shimon & Zaiţ Adriana, 2016. "Efficient Use of Behavioral Tools to Reduce Electricity Demand of Domestic Consumers," Scientific Annals of Economics and Business, De Gruyter Open, vol. 63(s1), pages 89-107, December.
    2. Egebark, Johan & Ekström, Mathias, 2016. "Can indifference make the world greener?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-13.
    3. Cristiano Codagnone & Giuseppe Alessandro Veltri & Francesco Bogliacino & Francisco Lupiáñez-Villanueva & George Gaskell & Andriy Ivchenko & Pietro Ortoleva & Francesco Mureddu, 2016. "Labels as nudges? An experimental study of car eco-labels," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 33(3), pages 403-432, December.
    4. repec:kap:enreec:v:67:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10640-017-0140-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Tegawa, Mihoko & Uchida, Hirotsugu, 2015. "Do Management Systems Foster Social Capital? Empirical Evidence from Japanese Surf Clam Fisheries," MPRA Paper 64996, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Schubert, Christian, 2017. "Green nudges: Do they work? Are they ethical?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 329-342.
    7. Rachel Croson & Nicolas Treich, 2014. "Behavioral Environmental Economics: Promises and Challenges," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(3), pages 335-351, July.
    8. repec:kap:enreec:v:67:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10640-017-0162-3 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    voluntary cooperation; fairness; self-image; social approval; status; crowding-out effects; context dependency; incoherent preferences; risk misperception; ambiguity aversion; regulator bias;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming


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