UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Climate change, collective action, and state compliance : obstacles on the road to Copenhagen Shankland, Michael


Climate change is a type of prisoner’s dilemma. Reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a public good and are costly to provide. Consequently, nation-states generally have done little to curb their emissions. Countries could be encouraged to reduce their emissions if the international community of states were to sanction, or the world were to shame, states that did not act. However, financial and technological aid is more likely to induce states to impose tougher restrictions on GHG emissions. In order for Copenhagen to precipitate major action on climate change the treaty must either compel countries to fulfill their obligations or assist states in transitioning their economies away from fossil fuels toward alternative energy sources. If the treaty fails to do both of these things then we can only hope that the largest producers of greenhouse gases either take steps to reduce their emissions voluntarily or are forced to take action in response to domestic pressure from their citizens and/or sub-national governments. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to adapt to an increasingly warmer planet and the consequences thereof.

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