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The game of climate talks

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/sep/06/game-theory-un-climate-talks

Negotiating climate agreements has long been a controversial issue. Rich countries, like America, Canada and Russia, do not want to sign any type of agreement and want the poor to bear the costs of climate change. These countries are continually releasing emissions as poor countries are spending billions going green. A group of scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has proposed game theory as a way to predict the behavior of countries in climate talks. Depending on what a country thinks another will do, it will react a particular way in order to best respond to the circumstance. For example, the EU will only agree to sign an agreement if China agrees, and China will only agree if Africa agrees. In a few weeks time, the UN global climate talks will resume in Panama. This will be the final talk before the big annual meeting in Durban, South Africa.

However, there are many major issues with using game theory as a way to predict the behavior of countries. Game theory can only be applied in situations in which the players are expected to act in a rational way and have the goal of protecting the climate. Because all countries cannot be expected to act in a rational way, game theory is probably not really effective in anticipating behavior. Most countries will act selfishly in the interests of their own nation. One way this can be mitigated is if penalties are in place for countries that miss emission targets.

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