Climate Change is a classic case of “Tragedy of the commons“. Briefly, when a group of individuals (persons, companies, countries) have shared access to a common resource (think “air”), each person will behave in a manner that maximizes his return at the cost of the groups. In climate change, there’s a twist. Developed nations who have contribute more to the change in climate, may stand to benefit with the change that is occurring. So why change their behaviour?
How do they benefit:
(1) Increased agricultural yield
(2) Lower heating costs in the winter
Which would be offset by
(1) Higher cooling requirements in the summer
(2) Damages from storm surges and forest fires. Insurers may become a leading force of change in global warming: http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/wildfires;
(3) Increased health costs as vectors (mosquitoes) begin to move north and the incidence of extreme events increases
(4) Increased incidence of drought
Curbing emissions and transitioning to a lower Carbon economy in developed nations (particularly the US), would require investments in alternate energy and re-skilling its workforce to work in a different kind of economy. It would also require its populace to believe that climate change is harmful for them.
The very positive thing is that some of this is happening.
Many scientists are also changing their behaviour substantially: not taking flights at all or not heating their house. While this will grab headlines, this is akin to binge dieting. It’s not sustainable. More on sustainable solutions soon.