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Global climate change, Biased assimilation, Loss aversion, Status quo bias


Cognitive Psychology | Environmental Law


In its attempt to address the threat of global climate change, society has struggled to reach a consensus regarding the need for preventive measures. Professor Rachlinski describes the threat of global climate change as a unique commons dilemma and explains that various psychological phenomena of judgment render it unlikely that society will be able to respond effectively to the threat. After considering the effects of biased assimilation, loss aversion, and other psychological processes, the author explains that an innovative approach is necessary to properly address the dilemma of global climate change.

Specifically, the author examines the prospect of governmental intervention through taxes or regulations as well as the development of collective norms against combustion of fossil fuels. Because the above-mentioned psychological phenomena hinder each of these potential remedies, the author ultimately concludes that the only remedy for the problem of global climate change is an elimination of the commons dilemma itself. The author suggests that by developing alternatives to fossil fuels, the problem of global climate change can be addressed in spite of social and cognitive limitations.

Publication Citation

Published in: University of Illinois Law Review, vol. 2000, no. 1 (2000).