Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Let’s hope we’re not rational about climate change

Global warming is a classic collective action dilemma.

A solution to global warming is a collective good and will be undersupplied, as Mancur Olson pointed out back in 1965.

Therefore, if Olson’s premises and argument are valid, we’re dooooooomed.

However: his argument supposed a rational economic agent who will wait for others to act, since his contribution is so small that on its own it won’t make a difference, and it’s absence won’t be noticed.

Only if humans don’t act as selfish rational agents will we avoid a climate catastrophe.

Fortunately, behavioral economics etc. suggests that we have bounded rationality, and even better, psychology and evolutionary biology suggests that non-rational altruism is hard wired.

Maybe there’s hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We did manage it with CFCs and the ozone layer. I haven't actually heard a cynical explanation for that one, although I'm sure one has been constructed.