Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sliding scale could help countries cooperate on climate

A promising idea for overcoming the gridlock in reducing emissions, from Environmental Research Web: When countries try to work together to limit the effects of climate change, the fear of being the only nation reducing greenhouse-gas emissions – while the others enjoy the benefits with no sacrifice – can bring cooperation to a grinding halt.

In a commentary in PNAS, Thomas Dietz and Jinhua Zhao from Michigan State University, US, suggest using game theory and a scalable method of rewards and punishments (called linear compensation) to help develop strategies that encourage all nations to participate fully in greenhouse-gas mitigation programmes.

"If we assume that each nation will act rationally in its own self-interest, then the path to reducing climate-change risk is to design a set of rules for emissions that countries will agree to because they find the rules beneficial," says Dietz. "Punishments for not meeting the emissions targets are an important part of the design, but these punishments may discourage nations from joining. That's where the mechanism of linear compensation is useful."

Instead of imposing a fixed punishment, linear compensation calls for the punishment to be adjusted relative to how well other nations met the emissions goals.

"So if most other nations also failed to meet the emissions targets, the punishment for each nation would be less – nations would be punished most for being the farthest away from the results of the other nations," Dietz explains....

Diagram of a pawn sacrifice by EVD, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Colombia license

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