Governing the tragedy of the global commons

 

Climate change is a global problem with many actors responsible for  the climate dilemma from energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The  climate’s energy balance is a global public good that no one political  actor is accountable to preserve, yet all require it. The “tragedy of  the commons” is a central concept in international relations and is  relevant to energy use and climate change. It is difficult to get  agreement on limiting or ending the use of energy which is necessary to  the economy in order to preserve balance in some environmental system.  It has happened in the past, as with the Montreal Protocol limiting  chlorofluorocarbons’ damage to the ozone layer, but climate change  affects many more actors and the self-interest of many powerful  entities.

As you consider these aspects of climate governance,  evaluate the questions below using as much information as you can  marshal to make your evaluation.

  • How successful have international agreements on limiting greenhouse gases been in general (e.g.,  why was the Montreal Protocol of 1987 a success, whereas the ability to  cap global greenhouse gas emissions by binding treaty has met with less  success?)?
  • International relations theory speaks to the difficulties of  foregoing self-interest for the common good, implying there are elements  of tragedy in preserving public good. In your view, is the current  state of international agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions  tragic? Of the optimistic solutions put forward by Michael Bradshaw, Tim  Wirth, Tom Daschle, and David Victor, which do you find most likely to  succeed?
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