Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Setting an Equilibrium

The Nash Equilibrium, named for the Nobel Prize winning economist John Forbes Nash, is an important concept  for developing a framework of international cooperation on action to counteract climate change. Nash's equations demonstrate that if one party takes an action unilaterally for its own benefit then the overall benefit to all parties will decline. This is an important principle that needs to guide global cooperation in reducing carbon emissions and controlling the human impact on the environment. There should no longer be any tolerance for countries that flout global guidelines and proceed with their own energy and resource consumption methods that produce unsustainable carbon emissions.

The vision that nature needs rights as well as the entire spectrum of human habitation is crucial to this balance and its success, otherwise a flawed agreement will doom efforts to reduce the impact of human activity on our planet. The world needs an agreement that includes the natural processes and resources of the earth, and all humans need to internalize its key principles if the planet, and we, are to survive. Unlimited human growth is not a viable model for life on this planet.

An example of the unilateral approach to growth and energy production at all costs is in China, with the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. A description of the project in 2008 only begins to scratch the surface of the ecological impact of this dam. Increasing energy demands are driving higher carbon emissions as China relies more on coal and shale gas, as well as tar sand supplies of energy. This is partially due to the lack of projected rainfall by 40% that has reduced the anticipated power production of the Three Gorges Dam. This is how climate change impacts all of the projected costs and benefits of these major infrastructure projects. Chinese scientists predicted many of the effects of this dam, yet their voices were silenced in what the government claimed was the national interest. In multibillion-dollar projects, the national interest is often taken hostage by political prestige, bureaucratic power struggles, and the generous kickbacks of a bribery-prone industry. These vested interests need to be balanced and held accountable by a fully transparent and participatory decision-making process.

So the international framework that must be agreed to in the climate change discussions - which are ongoing - must be put into position recognizing the benefit that it will have for all human societies and the global ecosystems. The issue is becoming urgent.