The Psychology of Global Climate Change

In its attempt to address the threat of global climate change, so-ciety has struggled to reach a consensus regarding the need for pre-ventive 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 consid-ering the effects of biased assimilation, loss aversion, and other psy-chological 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 po-tential 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 al-ternatives to fossil fuels, the problem of global climate change can be addressed in spite of social and cognitive limitations.* Associate Professor of Law, Cornell Law School. The author received valuable comments on this paper from participants in the symposium, \"Inno-vations in Environmental Policy,\" sponsored by the University of Illinois Law Review and the Univer-sity of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

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