Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Forest and Conservation Science

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Wayne Freimund

Commitee Members

Perry Brown, Michael Patterson, Carol Bruneau, Doglas Dalenberg


Climate change, Consumer behavior, Pro-environmental behavior


University of Montana


There is a strong scientific consensus that climate change is happening, is caused by human activities, and will have significant negative consequences. Avoiding the most severe consequences will require significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, including changes in individuals' personal energy and transportation choices, which can contribute significantly to climate change. Past research has identified a wide range of factors that may influence perceptions of climate change and willingness to act to reduce it. However, there are still considerable gaps in our knowledge. There is limited understanding of how different factors interact in people's decisions about personal energy and transportation. Additionally, most previous research has focused on behavioral intentions rather than actual behavior, and there tends to be a considerable gap between intentions and actions. Therefore, the goal of this study was to gain a more holistic and in-depth understanding of how different influences interact in people's decision processes to motivate their personal energy and transportation choices. This study used interview data and a qualitative analysis approach to gain this in-depth understanding and complement past research, which has used mainly psychometric, survey-based research methods. I found that individuals' decisions about personal energy and transportation actions occurred in (at least) two stages. First, people had a preferred approach to energy and transportation use. This was most often based on key values and social factors. A preferred approach to personal energy and transportation actions that included climate friendly actions was frequently motivated by pro environmental values. However, values about consumption and social justice were also important motivators. Membership in a social network that supported climate friendly actions was also important. However, people's actual personal energy and transportation actions were the results of an `in the moment' decision making process in which their preferred approach was often mediated by other factors including their lifestage - such as requirements of having a family, conflicting desires, or failure to keep their more-values based preferences top of mind. Interestingly, climate change itself was not an important reason for climate friendly actions; mainly because people felt that their ability to reduce climate change through individual action was very limited.



© Copyright 2014 Alison Dimond