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?