There is just something about brevity. A recent episode of David Biello’s Scientific American podcast Sixty Second Earth cuts to the chase of how change manifests, and how to most effectively tackle the global warming crisis: by local action. Here’s a transcript of part of the Sixty Second Earth podcast:
It’s obvious. Global efforts to combat climate change have failed. International summits are full of hot air and greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. If a country bails on a climate commitment, they pay a price of, well, zero.
Turns out that’s okay, at least according to game theory analyses by researchers at the University of Lisbon. Their models suggest that punishment by global institutions has no effect. They also say that global summits actually impede cooperation.
Now, in a new report, the researchers suggest that if punishment starts getting handed out at the local level, say city governments, what emerges is a much more cooperative global regime for combating climate change.
Interestingly, though, the local actors must be stimulated by an understanding that global warming means catastrophe… big time. Thus, the remarkable bottom line to change is essentially an old bumper sticker tagline (link added):
Nevertheless, the math of how people play games suggests that successfully curbing carbon pollution will rely on the old adage: think globally… act locally.
The journal Nature Climate Change describes how that proverbial pond inspires change with many ripples from within — it is the rippling of change (link added):
We show that a bottom-up approach, in which parties create local institutions that punish free-riders, promotes the emergence of widespread cooperation, mostly when risk perception is low, as it is at present3, 7. On the contrary, global institutions provide, at best, marginal improvements regarding overall cooperation. Our results clearly suggest that a polycentric approach involving multiple institutions is more effective than that associated with a single, global one, indicating that such a bottom-up, self-organization approach, set up at a local scale, provides a better ground on which to attempt a solution for such a complex and global dilemma.
Another international climate conference is coming up, this one being held in Poland. There isn’t much optimism regarding what is to come out of this, and it seems there’s no reason for optimism. What is needed is a stronger focus on creating action on the local level. What is needed is an emphasis on communicating the great risks and costs that come with global warming, while showing people local solutions that they can implement in their cities. People are starting to realize this, but the message needs to get out to more and more of us, especially the ones who are motivated and assertive enough to push for meaningful change.
Image Credit: Grassy Earth via Shutterstock
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