Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Solving the climate crisis with game theory

This article provides an interesting perspective on the current dynamics of paralysis in the way the international community deals with climate change. It also offers pretty interesting and practical actions that could help break the deadlock and start moving towards measurable improvements in the way we use the global environment.

clipped from www.economist.com

Playing games with the planet

A version of the “prisoner's dilemma” may suggest ways to break through the Kyoto impasse

AT ANY given summit on climate change, it is never long before some politician declares how “urgent” or “vital” or “imperative” it is to stop the planet from overheating. And yet few governments are willing to tackle the problem by themselves. In practice, what these impassioned speakers usually mean is that it is urgent—no, vital!—no, imperative!—for all countries but their own to get to grips with climate change.

Yet in a recent paper, Michael Liebreich, of New Energy Finance, a research firm, draws on game theory to reach the opposite conclusion. The dynamics of the prisoner's dilemma, he points out, change dramatically if participants know that they will be playing the game more than once. In that case, they have an incentive to co-operate, in order to avoid being punished for their misconduct by their opponent in subsequent rounds.

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