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The Availability Heuristic, Intuitive Cost-Benefit Analysis, and Climate Change

23 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2005  

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: November 2005

Abstract

Because risks are on all sides of social situations, it is not possible to be "precautionary" in general. The availability heuristic ensures that some risks stand out as particularly salient, whatever their actual magnitude. Taken together with intuitive cost-benefit balancing, the availability heuristic helps to explain differences across groups, cultures, and even nations in the assessment of precautions to reduce the risks associated with climate change. There are complex links among availability, social processes for the spreading of information, and predispositions. If the United States is to take a stronger stand against climate change, it is likely to be a result of available incidents that seem to show that climate change produces serious and tangible harm.

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., The Availability Heuristic, Intuitive Cost-Benefit Analysis, and Climate Change (November 2005). U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 263. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=844444 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.844444

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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