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Chapter 12

POLI 244 - WP Text Ch. 12 Global Environment

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 244
Stephen Saideman

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Examples of both where international cooperation has prevailed (Montreal
Protocol, deemed by Annan as perhaps the most successful international
agreement ever), and where cooperation has failed (Kyoto)
Why has it been difficult to cooperate all the time?
1) Ignorance
World leaders perhaps lack adequate information.
However, this is largely not the case (Americans seems once again to be the
exception here.)
Recognizing challenges does not automatically translate into workable solutions.
2) Special Interest Groups
Certain groups stand to lose from environmental policies (corporations, exporters)
However, there clearly are cases where collective interest in clean environment
has won out; so what makes those cases unique?
Core of the Analysis
interactions of individuals and countries suffer from problems of collective
small groups of actors that have a history of cooperation on other issues will
be most successful in cooperating on environmental issues
individuals, groups and countries have different interests on who bears the
costs of environmental regulation; how policies distribute these costs affects
who likely actors will cooperate
TANs play a major role in increasing chance of cooperation by providing
information and verifying compliance
Why Are Good Intentions Not Good Enough?
Reciprocation -> individual sacrifice results in benefit that is disaggregated to the
whole world (that is, you get almost nothing in return for bearing costs), and vice
versa (individual cheating result in personal benefit, with cost disaggregated to
the whole world)
Therefore, an individual is extremely incentivized normally to not cooperate; even
though we prefer a cleaner environment, we will avoid changing our personal

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Same logic of costs, reciprocation and free-ridership applies to countries.
Collective Action and the Environment
Externalities: costs (negative ex) or benefits (positive ex) for stakeholders other
than the actor undertaking an action (therefore, decisionmaker does not bear all
the costs or reap all the gains from her actions)
Pareto suboptimal: result in Prisoner's Dilemma that results from mutual
Problems of collective action result because individual decisions result in
externalities and a Pareto suboptimal conclusion.
Nonexcludable: public good that cannot be prevented from consumption by any
Nonrival in consumption: public good where one actor's consumption does not
diminish amount for others
Environmental issues involve both of these two aspects.
Can be partly circumvented by initiatives such as cap-and-trade, where the public
good of CO2 is essentially privatized, and the profit motive is harnessed to reduce
emissions (for businesses who reduce emissions can sell their carbon credits)
Common pool resources: nonexcludable but are rivalrous -> this then leads to
Ex. Public health care
Ex. International Whaling Commission and its failures
Solving Collective Action Problems
Larger the croup, the more likely they are to free ride (due to reciprocal
Ex. Only 12 countries producing 80% of CFC, versus nearly all industrialized
nations depending on coal and fossil fuels
Repeated play makes cooperation likelier (through strategies of reciprocal
punishment to deter cheating). Therefore, actors who cooperate in other methods
have other channels of punishment.
Ex. Cooperation between US and Canada on acid rain due to the integration
of their econs
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