Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Copenhagen to address tragedy of the commons

Lately, my e-mail box receives a lot of items containing the word Copenhagen in reference to the United Nations Climate Change conference scheduled there during Dec. 7-18.

US and Chinese leaders met in Beijing last month to discuss energy and the environment in efforts toward reaching some cooperative pact on climate change. The two countries are the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Climate scientists are calling for a collective international political will to implement changes, saying climate models show human influence on climate has exceeded the natural variability of climate change since about 1970. Scientists frequently cite a phrase: the tragedy of the commons.

The typical example of a commons is to imagine a pasture open to all herdsmen who try to keep as many cattle as possible. The arrangement works for awhile, but eventually somebody adds too many cows, resulting in overgrazing. All the herdsmen suffer.

Today, countries are getting together and talking about the possible worldwide consequences of burning fossil fuels. The commons in this case is the atmosphere.

I expect to see a lot more e-mail items this year containing the word Copenhagen. What remains to be seen is how all this talk might translate into future business dealings for oil and gas companies.

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March 28, 2017 at 11:26 PM  

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