Why the Paris Climate Agreement might be doomed to fail

(Inside Climate News, 28 Jul 2021) An economist argues that the international accord, which depends on collective action, does not include the kinds of incentives and penalties that would ensure that countries do their part.

Not long before the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, Scott Barrett wanted to test how likely it was that the pact would work. As an economist who studies international cooperation, Barrett decided to design a game to model how the signatories might behave.

Poker chips stood in for emissions cuts. The goal was to avoid “catastrophe,” which players could achieve by contributing some of their chips to a collective pot. Just as no one knows the exact level of emissions cuts necessary to avoid a given amount of warming, the players did not know exactly how many chips the pot needed to avoid catastrophe, only that the threshold lay within a certain range.

Players were told to agree on a common goal for the pot, and to make pledges for their own contributions. If they avoided catastrophe, everyone received a substantial pay-out. If they failed, each player was given only a small number of chips, creating a clear incentive to reach the goal.

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Inside Climate News, 28 Jul 2021: Why the Paris Climate Agreement might be doomed to fail