Skip to content

Cass R. Sunstein, The Availability Heuristic, Intuitive Cost-Benefit Analysis, and Climate Change, 77 Climatic Change 195 (2006).

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.