CLIMATE CHANGE: A Game With Too Many Free Riders

By Stephen Leahy*

BROOKLIN, Canada, Apr 4 (IPS) – The evidence is piling up that climate change threatens to bring a chaotic future unlike anything ever known. Taking collective action in time to avert the worst means rewarding climate-safe behaviour, punishing climate transgressors and publicly praising those who are trying to protect the environment, a new study suggests.

The nations of the world will come together to set a target and timeframe for reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels at the end of 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Scientists have repeatedly stated the 2020 target must be 25 to 40 percent emission reductions from the 1990 emission baseline. Can the global community reach this collective target through individual efforts when everyone suffers individually if the target is missed?

The short answer: No.

At least that’s the result of an elegant experiment to examine people’s ability to deal with this kind of situation. “People do not act rationally, even to protect their own interest,” observed Manfred Milinski of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Plon, Germany.

[ *This story is part four of a four-part examination of the psychological and behavioural changes needed to dial down the temperature on our global greenhouse. Part one: Climate Change Reshaping Civilization Part two: Climate River in Full Flood   Part three: CLIMATE CHANGE: A Vision Worth Fighting For ]

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