A Climate Club?

Is a “Climate Club” a solution, 
and is a club a kind of commons?  

Following my own curiosity about why the commons matters to rising waters and climate change, I read “A New Solution: The Climate Club” in the June 4, 2015 issue of The New York Review of Books. In it, William C. Nordhaus reviews a new book, Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, by Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman.

In his introduction, Nordhaus says,

“While the entire book is worth careful study, its singular contributions are in three areas: the discussions of how nations may ‘free-ride’ on the decisions of others, the ultimate curse on international climate policies; the uncertainties surrounding both climate change and its consequences; and the particular perils of geoengineering to reverse carbon-induced climate change.”

After a healthy discussion of the perils of these three topics, Nordhaus concludes that, “The major challenge for climate policy is to overcome free-riding.” The answer he suggests is a redesign of climate treaties to create a “Climate Club.”

“A club is a voluntary group deriving mutual benefits from sharing the costs of producing an activity. Members get the benefits but also pay the dues. The benefits of a successful club are sufficiently large that members will pay dues and adhere to club rules in order to gain them.… A central feature of the club is that it creates a strategic situation that is the opposite of today’s free-riding incentives. With a Climate Club, countries acting in their self-interest will choose to enter the club and undertake high levels of emissions reductions because of the penalties for nonparticipation.”

In addition to all the other reasons that the review is worth reading in the context of our Confab, it raises questions relative to our discussion of the commons.

One pertinent quote I’ve put on the big studio wall is from David Bollier:

“The commons is a resource plus a defined community and the protocols, values, and norms devised by the community to manage its resources.”

And another that I’ll add later this week is a summary of one of Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom’s eight principles for reliable, working commons:

“People must be able to devise systems to monitor how the resource is used and to identify and punish people who violate the rules.”


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