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Deliberating about Climate Change: The Case for ‘Thinking and Nudging’

  • Dominic Lenzi ORCID logo EMAIL logo


Proponents of deliberative democracy believe deliberation provides the best chance of finding effective and legitimate climate policies. However, in many societies there is substantial evidence of biased cognition and polarisation about climate change. Further, many appear unable to distinguish reliable scientific information from false claims or misinformation. While deliberation significantly reduces polarisation about climate change, and can even increase the provision of reliable beliefs, these benefits are difficult to scale up, and are slow to affect whole societies. In response, I propose a combined strategy of ‘thinking and nudging’. While deliberative theorists tend to view nudging askance, combining deliberation with nudges promises to be a timelier and more effective response to climate change than deliberation alone. I outline several proposals to improve societal deliberative capacity while reducing climate risks, including media reform, strategic communication and framing of debates, incentivising pro-climate behaviour change, and better education about science.


I would like to thank Andrew Alexandra, Martin Kowarsch, Clare Heyward, Christian Flachsland and Sebastian Levi for comments on an earlier version of this paper. I also thank my anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful suggestions. Remaining errors are my own.


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Published Online: 2019-11-07
Published in Print: 2019-11-18

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