Looking at the politics around global warming — and what we need to do to slow it — hope is often lost as we sift through the dozens of stories a week about each new indicator that humans are unfortunately overheating the planet.

If the world can come together to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and manage a 40% decline by 2030, we can save the world as we know it, the panel explained. . A new book by Rice University professor Dan Cohan gives some ideas on how to get out of the political quagmire.

“Confronting Climate Gridlock: How Diplomacy, Technology, and Policy Can Unlock a Clean Energy Future” dives into how technologies that will replace fossil fuels can boost economies and increase corporate profits, and how game theory could drive to a global climate agreement.

An emerging incentive to cooperate on climate is the ability for large corporations to profit from reducing emissions. Cohan spends several chapters explaining clean energy technologies and whether they are economically superior to carbon dioxide producing alternatives.

“There’s this camp that’s all about R&D and all the new technology,” he said when I interviewed Cohan in front of a live audience at Rice to celebrate the book’s release. “So here are the people saying, we have the technologies we need; we just need the politics, the will, to put them in place.

The challenge now is the ever-shorter time to avert disaster. President Joe Biden wants to neutralize emissions by 2035, which does not allow emerging technologies such as small nuclear reactors, fusion or carbon capture to reach maturity in time.

“If we really want to do this quickly, and we need to move quickly, we need to go electric quickly,” he said.

Political scientists often use game theory to understand diplomatic negotiations. A classic game is the prisoner’s dilemma.

The game begins with the police separately interrogating two co-conspirators, offering the two a deal if they turn on their accomplice. Prisoners can stand and hope their ally doesn’t confess, or they can run away. If both confess, neither gets a deal.

If you play the game as a tournament with multiple rounds, game theorists say a winning strategy emerges. Keep silent and if you lose, admit it in the next round to win. By always doing what the other prisoner did in the previous turn, a player can encourage cooperative behavior in just a few turns.

The steps to success are simple: in the first round, be kind, then retaliate, if necessary, and finally forgive past betrayals to foster future cooperation. If the strategy is clear, the prisoners always learn to cooperate.

However, countries that have taken action to slow climate change generally do not retaliate against those who refuse. They create a free rider problem, where some countries bear the bulk of the burden. Cohan explains that the European Union’s proposals to impose carbon tariffs on imports from non-compliant countries appear as the necessary retaliation to encourage cooperation.

One of Cohan’s key observations is that successful international climate agreements generally ratify existing US legislation. Conversely, presidents who first strike a deal abroad and then try to push it through at home often fail.

The Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer, for example, was only signed after the Environmental Protection Agency banned dangerous chemicals in the home. Passing climate bills through Congress then becomes the best way to reach international agreements that will meet emissions reduction targets.

“If we ever act together on a national level, we might have a better hope of getting things done on a global scale,” Cohan said. “And when we take action, we want to make sure everyone is on board.”

Unfortunately, in a deeply divided body politic, Republicans have made opposition to climate legislation a litmus test. Even the conservative clean energy groups that I follow, like the Conservative Energy Network, rarely mention climate. Instead, they call for market solutions rather than regulations.

The real challenge, then, is convincing Republican primary voters that climate change mitigation is necessary and economically beneficial. Sadly, after eight years of making this argument, I’ve seen only a slight reduction in the number of posts from readers denying climate change.

Cohan’s book provides an accurate assessment of the current situation and an excellent strategy for breaking the climate impasse. It also provides a well-deserved break from the climactic scroll.

Tomlinson writes commentary on business, economics, and politics.


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