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Dangerous global warming will happen sooner than thought – study

Posted on 25 March 2016 by Guest Author

The world is on track to reach dangerous levels of global warming much sooner than expected, according to new Australian research that highlights the alarming implications of rising energy demand.

That forecast, based on new modelling using long-term average projections on economic growth, population growth and energy use per person, points to a 2C rise by 2030.

The UN conference on climate change in Paris last year agreed to a 1.5C rise as the preferred limit to protect vulnerable island states, and a 2C rise as the absolute limit.

The new modelling is the brainchild of Ben Hankamer from UQ’s institute for molecular bioscience and Liam Wagner from Griffith University’s department of accounting, finance and economics, whose work was published in the journal Plos One on Thursday.

It is the first model to include energy use per person – which has more than doubled since 1950 – alongside economic and population growth as a way of predicting carbon emissions and corresponding temperature increases.

The researchers said the earlier than expected advance of global warming revealed by their modelling added a newfound urgency to the switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

Hankamer said: “The more the economy grows, the more energy you use ... the conclusion really is that economists and environmentalists are on the same side and have both come to the same conclusion: we’ve got to act now and we don’t have much time.”

Wagner said the model suggested the surge in energy consumption was not offset by improvements in energy efficiency.

He said energy use per person was on track to rise sixfold by 2050, which had dire implications for temperatures when combined with economic growth of 3.9% a year (the six-decade average) and a world population of 9 billion.

“Massive increases in energy consumption would be necessary to alleviate poverty for the nearly 50% of the world’s population who live on less than $2.50 a day,” Wagner said.

“We have a choice: leave people in poverty and speed towards dangerous global warming through the increased use of fossil fuels, or transition rapidly to renewables.”

Hankamer said: “When you think about statements like ‘coal is good for humanity’ because we’re pulling people out of poverty, it’s just not true”.

“You would have to burn so much coal in order to get the energy to provide people with a living to get them off $2.50 a day that [temperature rises] would just go through the roof very quickly.”

The researchers suggested switching $500bn in subsidies for fossil fuels worldwide to renewables as a “cost neutral” way to fast-track the energy transition.

Wagner said pulling the rug from out under the fossil fuels industry was a move of “creative destruction” and “more a political issue rather than an economic issue”.

“If we swapped those subsidies globally, of course we could have rapid improvement and deployment of renewables to cover our shift from fossil fuels,” he said.

“You’re pushing a huge amount of capital into a different sector that requires an enormous amount of growth, so you would actually see a great deal more growth from putting it into renewables than providing it for fossil fuels.”

Hankamer said the fact that about 80% of the world’s energy was for fuel, and only 20% for electricity, meant “we don’t have any easy solutions”.

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Comments 51 to 67 out of 67:

  1. Tom@41,

    I understand your points better now, thanks for the clarification.

    As you mention, your 'free market' is "an idealized but never realized condition that is defined by, among other conditions, the lack of negative externalities". Then, in practice: "a key role of government is to regulate the market so that it more closely approximates to a 'free market'".

    It would seem that practice can come meet that ideal model. Examples of successful gov regulations from the past, such as against CFC emisions and SO2 emissions, eliminated externalities of ozone hole & acid rains.

    However, AGW is a unique type of problem, never encountered before, on at least three grounds:

    1) its international character and its unequal consequences. I mean fossil fuels burned in one (predominantly Western) countries, result in largest and most unsuitable climate changes in other (predominantly african, low island) countries.

    2) its length of time to develop: the climate consequences we experience today are results of coal burning by our fathers, what we burn today will influence the climate of our children

    3) the economies of almost all countries so dependent on FF energy, that any action to curb FF usage, taken by those countires, would result (as they say) in their economy slowdown, and being overtaken by the neighbouring countries.

    Due to 1), the model of CO2 externalities at intrernational scale, is not as simple as your 'prisoners dilemma' model, or Hardin's TOC model. In fact PD model is not realistic at all here. Polluting countries who don't face the direst consequences of climate change (e.g. Canada re tar sand exploits) do not have the slightest incentive to take cooperative action unlike the players in your PD model.

    Due to 2) (and also partially due to 1), AGW problem is often seen as not an environmental but as inter-generational ethical problem. The govs rarely go try to go with their goals beyond dozen or so years. In fact gov lifecycles are 3-4 years in most democratic countries. To data, I don't know of any policies that would be taken with such long forsight as AGW policy demands.

    Due to 3) we have a virtual lockdown, that no county wants to engage in a binding agreement, for fear that their economy will be "ruined". Paris COP agreement is just a wishful thinking, nothing that anyone wants to take responsibility for.


    These are jusat examples, that your ideal 'free market', is currently unachievable in today's world. I cannot see how such market would create the forces/incentives able to overcome the perversive current trends to burn even more FF as of today.

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  2. chriskoz @51, my comments about the 'free market' @41 were supposed to be read in light of my discussion @20 where I give a mored comprehensive list of the assumptions of a 'free market'.  Specifically:

    A 'free market' "requires:

    1. No coercion, including no coercion resulting from the pressure to make trade on disadvantaged terms due to declining economic circumstances;
    2. Perfect knowledge of the outcomes;
    3. Perfect competition, in the sense that anybody making a trade has at the time of the trade an infinite number of alternate trades with marginally different properties in respect to all aspects of the trade; and
    4. No negative externalities."

    To that I should add

         5. No transaction costs

    for completeness, a point I mentioned in my discussion @41.

    While it may be possible to reduce any one of these factors effectively to zero at a given time, it is not possible to do so with all of them.  Successful government regulations, including the examples you provide, do not "come meet that ideal model" of a 'free market' except imperfectly, but they can do so far better than an unregulated market in many cases.

    Nor is the market problem with regard to GHG totally unique as you indicate.  Ozone and acid rain had negative externalities that extended beyond national borders, and in both cases the negative effects were more strongly experienced by nations that contributed less to the problem (your point 1).  With ozone there has been (and was expected to be) a substantial delay between the implimentation of a solution and an actual responce of that system in terms of a reduced ozone hole (your point 2).  And both the responses to to ozone and acid rain required regulating, and hence adding significant costs to, major components of the economy (your point 3).  You are, however, correct to point to those difficulties, for they are far more intense with regard to the response to global warming then to anything that has gone before.

    This does not mean a response based on how the unregulated market of fossil fuels fails to be a 'free market' of energy is not appropriate.  Those failures are specifically, a failure of knowledge of outcomes (2), and a failure to price and compensate for negative externalities (4).  To that we should improve our knowledge of expected outcomes (IPCC process), and communicate it (SkS and others), and price the externalities in a way that results in compensation for those that experience the negative effects (4).  That strongly suggests the correct policy response is a global cap and trade scheme operated between nations, with national permits proportional to population, and the earnings from the cap and trade scheme used for mitigation and adaption programs.  However, as we wish to minimize transaction costs (5), the majority of the earnings should be returned as a dividend to the population.  Further, to minimize transaction costs we may be required to fall back to a carbon tax regime on a national basis.

    None of this is new, and none of it depends uniquely on my political views or analysis of the 'free market' (and nor have I claimed it does).

    Further, I cannot disagree with your pessimistic analysis of the problems securing meaningful international agreement.  There are reasons for optimism based on the rapid development of renewable energy technology, and that fact that many nations are implimenting significant (if not yet adequate) policies to tackle global warming.  But I would agree the odds of the world cooperating sufficiently to keep the global temperature rise below 2 C above the preindustrial average currently look slim.

    The question is what should we do about it.  My view is that we should do all that we can do within the constraints of constitutional and democratic measures.  I even agree that we should push for significant reform in national and international governance.  However, we should only do the later on its own merits.  Tying the reforms to the response to AGW, IMO, hurts both causes rhetorically - loosing potential allies for both while feeding into a counter narrative about AGW science and policy.  Thus, in any democratic nation I think that reforms should be implemented such that:

    1)  Donations to political parties and/or political advertisements can only be made by citizens (which should exclude corporate donations);

    2)  Donations above 10% of the mode of weekly income in the nation should not be anonymous; and

    3)  Donations above 20% of the mode of weekly income should preclude the donator from being the recipient of government contracts, or special funding other than standard welfare measures.

    Such a measure would help implement policy on global warming by breaking the power of fossil fuel companies by donations to legislatures.  Giving that as the reason for the measures, however, would greatly reduce or prevent likely support from right wing political groups (which are not themselves fronts for corporate money).

    Further, within democratic nations, resort to non-democratic and non-constitutional means would tend to break down civil society leading to substantial suffering and possibly civil war.  Doing it internationally will lead to either a refusal of cooperation or outright war.  In either case it is ineffective, and potentially brings on the worst harm that is a probable consequence of low level global warming. 

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  3. Tom Curtis:

    In current usage, the term "tragedy of the commons" is used to justify the seizure of customary rights of access to land/and or fisherys and giving them a simple property rights to the wealthy. It is in fact, a modern enclosure movement. Nothing more, and nothing less.

    Your assertion that "Tragedy of the Commons" is "nothing more, and nothing less" than a justification for a modern enclosure movement is equivalent to the insistence by some AGW-deniers that "denier" must always imply "holocaust-denier": just because some self-interested parties have co-opted a term for their own rhetorical purposes, no one is obligated to abandon other well-established usages.  While the example Hardin chose in his original paper may be problematic (Hardin later said his biggest mistake was in not calling it "the tragedy of the unmanaged commons"), as a metaphor "Tragedy of the Commons" is too broadly useful to be reflexively proscribed as a trigger phrase.

    And in fact, TotC is in current usage in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, as well as in Environmental Studies, as an evocative term for real phenomena.  For an example from Biology, see Everybody loses: intraspecific competition induces tragedy of the commons in Allenby's gerbils in Ecology the flagship journal of the Ecological Society of America.  From the abstract:

    Interference competition may lead to a tragedy of the commons in which individuals driven by self-interest reduce the fitness of the entire group.

    Applications to Environmental issues abound, see Tragedy of the Commons?, a Special Issue of Science; or The drama of the commons, edited by Ostrom et al.  From the abstract to the latter:

    The "tragedy of the commons" is a central concept in human ecology and the study of the environment...

    But drama is always there. That is why we have chosen to call this book The Drama of the Commons— because the commons entails history, comedy, and tragedy.

    Your mileage may vary, Tom, but if "tragedy of the commons" was a good enough phrase for Ostrom it's good enough for me.

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  4. Mal Adapted @53:

    1)  First, my objection to Hardin's use of the term "Tragedy of the Commons" is not comparable to denier objections to the term 'denier' as applied to them.  To begin with, the term 'denier' has been an attested part of the English language since 1532 (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary).  The AGW deniers have taken an ancient English word formed by standard construction rules from an even more ancient word in common usage that describes what they do, and insisted that henceforth its meaning be radically contracted to apply uniquely to a particular group.

    In contrast, I am pointing out that a neologism is based on an historically inaccurate account of what actually happened to commons in England, and probably much of Europe in such a way that the historical tragedy of the commons which resulted in the impoverishment and deaths of 100s of thousands of people over several centuries is concealed, and worse, repeated under the rubric of avoiding the "tragedy of the commons".

    I would similarly object to a neologism of the "tragedy of slavery" whose primary rhetorical use was the justification of capturing people and, against their will, shipping them to a foreign nation where they and their children were forced by torture and the threat of death into bonded, uncompensated labour.

    No amount of take up of the term, the 'tragedy of slavery', in fringe cases would justify the use of such a term so defined.  It would be an insult to the millions of victims of slavery, but quite apart from that, the sloppiness of thought about its primary subject induced would be intolerable.

    Similarly, an approach to the modern commons that does not proceed by first identifying customary rights of usage, and preserving them as far as possible (thereby forcing the customary users into poverty) should not be accepted, but the economic analysis of the commons under the rubric "the tragedy of the commons" encourages just such an approach.

    2)  In your first example of the use of "the tragedy of the commons" by an ecologist, that by Berger-Tal et al, they get the use wrong even by Hardin's sense.  In Hardin's sense, the 'tragedy of the commons' involves over exploitation of a resource due to common ownership.  Berger-Tal et al write:

    "Competition reduced the amount of time the gerbils spent foraging, as well as foraging efficiency since part of the foragers' attention was directed toward detecting competitors (apparent predation risk). Single gerbils harvested significantly more food than the combined efforts of two gerbils foraging together. Competition reduced the success of both individuals within a pair by more than 50%, making this a case of the tragedy of the commons where each individual's investment in competition reduces the success of all individuals within the group, including its own."

    As competition here leads to more than a 50% reduction in foraging for each member of a competing pair, the resource is actually exploited less than it would be with just one gerbil present, and hence no competition.

    Because the term has been used incorrectly in this article, it decreases the clarity of reasoning in the article.  That is a good argument for not using the term rather than for retaining it.

    As an aside, it is not even clear that the gerbil foraging pattern represents a prisoner's dilemma as it may be the case that if one gerbil attempted to forage without interfering with the other, it would gain more sustenance than the gerbil attempting to interfere.

    Unfortunately the other examples you provide are behind paywalls, so I cannot comment on whether this misuse of the term (in Hardin's sense) is widespread in ecology.

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  5. Tom,

    I will remain consistent about the need to measure acceptability by the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all. Than end is always justified (any other end is suspect).

    As for the means, I am fond of "Trickle-Down Ethics". Everyone at the top (in accumulated wealthy or leadership level) is the first group to be tested rigorously on deserving their high position based on it being proven they consistently have acted to develop better understanding and use that better understanding to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all. The people promoting the development or dissemination of misleading marketing that impedes the advancement of humanity would clearly fail the test.

    Anyone at the top failing to meet that high ethical standard needs to be brought down a notch.

    After the highest level is sorted out the ethical requirement would step down as well, so someone who didn't pass muster at the highest level is retested to determine if they have changed their ways.

    This would make everyone ina position of leadership more legitimate, because they would understand that they have no other choice.

    I understand there would be powerful resistance to this, but everyone who resists would sort of know they are setting themselves up for being taken down a notch.

    By the way, this is a business-minded approach to the issue. Any business that does not measure the behaviour of their highest levels to the highest level risks not having a future.

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  6. OPOF @55, you have avoided answering my question.  To make it more specific, if democratic countries refuse to impliment your tall poppy policy, what is the limit on actions you will take or recommend that others take to ensure that it becomes law?

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  7. Tom@52,

    Now I have about clear undestanding of your points, thank you. I agree with lots of your observations, in particular I share your opinion that 'free market' as you defined it can in theory fix the AGW problem.

    Unfortunately, in practice, as of today, we are far away from that ideal model. Influence of FF interests is very strong. That influence is driven primarily by money because FF exploration is still one of the most profitable business activity (more  profitable are illegal activities such as selling illicit drugs) backed by strong political lobbying, therefore all politicians are biased or under strong pressure from the lobbyists. Ordinary citizens who vote those politicians into power, are also biased by such lobbying, "coal is good for humanity" campaigns, etc. The examples at all levels abound. E.g. the ignorance, willful or not, of current federal env minister Greg Hunt about climate science who sources his knowledge about climate change from Wikipedia rather than from the advice of many scientific bodies assigned to do so. E.g. Malcolm Turnball, who when became PM, changed his mind about the efficiency of carbon tax/emission trading policy that he used to back up few years back. Now be does not want to talk about it and continues an ineffective nonsense "direct action" policy of his predecessor. I can only guess because the party lines backed by strong FF lobbyists force him to do so. Finally, Annastacia Palaszczuk, QLD premier, agaisnt her acceptance of climate science and the problem of AGW that she strongly expressed during her campaign, approved the damaging mega-coalmine, while the result of it - degrfqadation of Great Barrier Reef, is happenning in her backyard. Such decision by Ms Palaszczuk can only be described as madness. The saddest aspectt of it is: the alternative premier at the election 1 year ago (Newmann) would've made the same decision even more light hearted because he denies climate science.

    My bottom line is: in current political situation, we don't have govs that are able to succesfully provide market correction required to fix the FF externalities. Would the political reforms you're proposing (e.g. essential elimination of political donations by corporations) fix that situation? I don't know how realistic such reforms are in the first place: this is not the area I've been researching.

    It can aslo be argued that the monetary value of FF externalities calculated by the economists will always be undervaluated. That's because they take into account the damage to the monetary goods and services to the human population only. They don't take into account non monetary environmental services such as biodiversity and the beauty of the environment. That's because a price cannot be put on it. Depending on your ethical stance, you can even argue, that a loss of many homo sapiens individuals (due to inevitable stress & ensuing wars such as the one currently in Syria) is of lesser importance than a loss of an endangered species with the resulting "hole" in previously occupied ecological niche. From the pure sustainability perspective, homo sapiens species, including all its racial heritage, is very safe, even its civilisation will survive in a coming strong stress of 2K+ of GW. Any losses can be reuilt quickly once the planet's climate is stabilised. However any species loss cannot be rebuilt. From that point of view, immediate and strong action is required: e.g. an authoritarian world gov, that would impose all regulations we've been discussing here, that have failed. Sadly, I must agree with you, that such imposition is less realistic than the slow free market evolution as you describe.

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  8. Somewhat relevant to the discussion between OPOF and me:

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  9. Tom,

    I would support whatever measures will actually advance humanity to a lasting better future for all. Helping those who would choose to pursue personal reward in ways that can be understood to be harmful to change their minds can be expected to require actions those people would consider unfair and unjustified limits on 'their freedom' or unjustified removal of what they consider to be their deserved personal gains. Hopefully they would not violently try to defend their position, but it is clear that some people are indoctrinated in the 'value of freedom to the point of violently defending the right to behave as they wish'.

    In addition to constantly creating damaging economic developments (because they are the more rewarding actions if they can be gotten away with), the competition to be the ones to benefit the most from the opportunities that must be fought over (because they are not sustainable activities) has clearly produced massive amounts of tragic suffering (for others, including bigger challenges for today's generation of humanity).

    As far as the specifics of what will need to happen, the recent exposure of the less unacceptable financial wheeling and dealing pursued by some among the global wealthy is a good step. If it results in one less place on this planet for unacceptable people to get away with what they can understand does not advance humanity to a lasting better future then change in the right direction has occurred. If Panama maintains its 'freedom' to make up rules that suit such people and prolong unsustainable damaging perceptions of prosperity for those types of undeserving people then humanity will continue to fail to advance.

    My return questions to you are: Do you understand that the belief that 'freedom of people to do as they please' has failed because some people can get away with unacceptable behaviour (behavour which is totally unacceptable for a person who is considered to be among the most fortunate, supposedly a leader)? And that it will continue to fail to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all unless such people are kept from personally succeeding in ways that are understood to be detrimental to the life circumstances others will face (which will require laws and penalties related to deliberately misleading political marketing like the laws already established regarding misleading commercial marketing)?

    I am all for freedom (and marketing), as long as it actually advances humanity to a lasting better future for all.

    Back to the climate change issue. It is clearly unacceptable for already very fortunate people to continue to be even more fortunate by prolonging their ability to win their bets on getting away with activity that is understood to create problems that others, especially future generations, will have to deal with.

    The most fortunate and the leaders of a current generation should be leading by example and living the way it is understood that future humanity will be able to enjoy living. That will motivate 'all of them, not just the responsibvle considerate ones' to actually strive to create legitimately sustainable better ways of living rather than claiming confidence that future generations will advance in spite of the added challenges thrown their way by the undeserving successes of the less responsible and less considerate.

    I am justifiably skeptical of the actual progress that will be made by humanity unless changes occur that make more of the most fortunate behave more considerately and responsibly. The ideal would be for every wealthy powerful person to be responsible and considerate. That would most rapidly advance humanity. Anything would be better than continuing the creation of 'temporary unsustainable appearances of prosperity for some' that are aspired to by others and are unjustifiably claimed to be legitimate advancements of humanity.

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  10. Tom Curtis,

    I'm turning into a regular cheerleader over here.  Who'da thunk.

    I found your discussion with OPOF invaluable if for no other reason than it has allowed me to clearly differentiate your points of view.  I hope that your perspective is the dominant one among people on your side of the debate.

    Thanks also for the Bandura link, that was interesting.

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  11. Tom Curtis@54

    I am pointing out that a neologism is based on an historically inaccurate account of what actually happened to commons in England, and probably much of Europe in such a way that the historical tragedy of the commons which resulted in the impoverishment and deaths of 100s of thousands of people over several centuries is concealed, and worse, repeated under the rubric of avoiding the "tragedy of the commons".

    Tom, I'm not disputing the historical facts of enclosure, nor the injustice of its impacts on the land-poor agrarian classes who lost their traditional shared pasturage. What I'm disputing is this:

    In current usage, the term "tragedy of the commons" is used to justify the seizure of customary rights of access to land/and or fisherys and giving them a simple property rights to the wealthy. It is in fact, a modern enclosure movement. Nothing more, and nothing less.

    My point is that while Hardin's coinage of the phrase may very well have been intended to justify enclosure, "Tragedy of the Commons" entered the public domain at the time he published his explosive article in Science. It was immediately adopted by academic sub-disciplines of Ecology and Economics as a metaphor, that is, an abstraction of the economic and social forces (or lack thereof) that encourage individuals to maximize their exploitation of common-property resources for private benefit, at aggregate rates that lead to the destruction of the resource. I first encountered that usage of it as an undergraduate in the late 1970s, and frequently again in an MS program in Environmental Science in the early 1980s.

    In the term of art, "commons" refers not just to shared pasturage but to commercial fish stocks, groundwater aquifers and even the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb "greenhouse" (another metaphor) gases without causing GMST to increase; and "tragedy" means "driven by forces beyond the control of the individual exploiters acting on their own", an allusion to the ancient Greek dramatic form of the tragoidea wherein the protagonists could only enact the fates ordained for them by the gods. 

    The examples from the refereed literature I provided were to show wide current usage of "TotC" as a term of academic art.  A few minutes with Google Scholar turns up hundreds more, but one in particular stood out for me.  My understanding is that you are Australian, but I presume you know of the US National Academy, whose members collectively represent the most rigorous scientific standards. The NAS publication The drama of the commons, edited by Ostrom et al., is free to download at the link. Its preface begins with:

    “The commons” has long been a pivotal idea in environmental studies, and the resources and institutions described by that term have long been recognized as central to many environmental problems, especially problems of global environmental change.

    That leads me to your assertion that:

    No amount of take up of the term, the 'tragedy of slavery', in fringe cases would justify the use of such a term so defined. It would be an insult to the millions of victims of slavery, but quite apart from that, the sloppiness of thought about its primary subject induced would be intolerable.

    Moral outrage at the historical injustice of enclosure is appropriate, but do you really presume to accuse the late Elinor Ostrom, who was awarded the Nobel prize in Economics for her work on ways that common property resources may be cooperatively managed by their stakeholders to avert tragedy (in the conventional meaning), of intolerable sloppiness of thought or of insulting the millions of victims of enclosure?

    If so, you presume much. Without getting into all the ways that your claims regarding "TotC" are like or unlike the claim that calling someone an "AGW-denier" is an insult to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, I'll just point out that you don't own that phrase anymore than a notorious other Tom owns "denier".

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  12. Mal Adapted @61 your case that my point represents an insult to Elinor Ostrom ignores the fact that she found the term "Tragedy of the Commons" sufficiently distorting of what actually happens on commons that she used instead the term "Drama of the Commons" for the title of the book, which in turn points out a multitude of instances where what happens on the commons is not adequately described by Hardin's term.

    My point is that Hardin's use suggests that there is only one possible tragic result from use of the commons - something which is definitely false as shown by the tragic results of enclosure.  In doing so it belittles the actual historical tragedy in favour of a hypothetical tragedy whose rhetorical use is to justify replicating the historical tragedy.  That it has that rhetorical use does not mean it cannot, and has not been used by others in careful analysis.  For that purpose, however, more neutral terms such as "n-person prisoner's dilemma" or the "Gordon/Schaeffer model of the Commons" would be appropriate. (The later term recognises two people who independently and formally analyzed the scenario Hardin later informally analyzed but gave a catchy name to.)  In general, rhetorically motivated names do not aid clear analysis.  Rather the contrary.  But they no not make it impossible.

    Indeed, I have already pointed out that one of your examples was such an example of poor analysis.  Specifically, the analysis by Berger-tal et al was impoverished by thinking an unusual 'tragedy' in the commons where mutual grazing resulted in both grazers eating less than half of what they would have eaten alone was thereby an example of 'The tragedy of the Commons'.  In this case, the claim in Hardin's term that there is one, and only one type of tragedy related to the commons has directly lead the researchers to misclassify the type of situation they discovered.

    You are welcome to defend a term that both misleads and is offensive on the grounds of mere custom.  I, on the other hand see no reason to do so.  I utterly reject, however, your implication that because I think a term is misleading that it will mislead all who use it; all that all who use it because it is commonly recognized personally intend to insult the sufferers of the historical tragedy of the commons.  That is entirely a strawman. 

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  13. Tom Curtis@62:

    I utterly reject, however, your implication that because I think a term is misleading that it will mislead all who use it; all that all who use it because it is commonly recognized personally intend to insult the sufferers of the historical tragedy of the commons. That is entirely a strawman.

    That was a little garbled, but if by:

    In current usage, the term "tragedy of the commons" is used to justify the seizure of customary rights of access to land/and or fisherys and giving them a simple property rights to the wealthy. It is in fact, a modern enclosure movement. Nothing more, and nothing less.

    you didn't actually mean that the term "tragedy of the commons" can only be used to "justify the seizure of customary rights of access to land/and or fisherys and giving them a simple property rights to the wealthy", "Nothing more, and nothing less", then we have no dispute.

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  14. Mal Adapted @63

    "That was a little garbled"

    Yes it was.  Try:

    "I utterly reject, however, your implication that because I think a term is misleading that it will mislead all who use it; or that all who use it because it is a commonly recognized term personally intend to insult the sufferers of the historical tragedy of the commons. That is entirely a strawman."

    I apologize for my poor copy editing.

    "you didn't actually mean that the term "tragedy of the commons" can only be used to "justify the seizure of customary rights of access to land/and or fisherys and giving them a simple property rights to the wealthy", "Nothing more, and nothing less", then we have no dispute."

    In my original claim, I intended to indicate that that the rhetorical use of the term to justify the seizure of customary rights was a modern enclosure movement, "nothing more and nothing less".  That makes the term "the tragedy of the commons" orwellian, as I claimed.  I did not mean to indicate that anybody using it had orwellian intent.  Indeed, it is the nature of orwellian words that they shape your thoughts regardless of your actual intentions, thereby leading you to accept or justify things you would not accept or justify if thought about clearly.  Ergo, if the term is orwellian, then it is likely that many, even most would not agree with the implicit values encouraged by the term with clearer thought.  And again, just because a term is misleading does not mean that all who use it are misled or intend to mislead.

    But again, just because not all are misled by a term does not mean a misleading term should not be replaced by a better one.

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  15. For those of you who want to brush-up on your understanding of the "tragedy of the commons", here's hand-dandy education module...

    Introducing the economic concept of 'tragedy of the commons' using global warming, Laura Triplett, Gustavus Adolphus College

    Summary

    In this 50-minute classroom activity, students begin by discussing historical environmental problems that demonstrate the economic principle of the 'tragedy of the commons'. The examples available here are sewage disposal in the Mississippi River, smog in London, and the ozone hole, but other examples could be used. Next, the instructor poses the question of whether global warming fits the tragedy of the commons model, and teaches some basic climate literacy concepts. Then, students brainstorm possible economic solutions to the global warming tragedy-of-the-commons. Instructor finishes by giving examples of economic solutions to historical environmental problems. This could easily lead into topics such as monetary and fiscal policy, economic development and globalization.

    This class was developed as part of the Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geoscience for a Sustainable Future (InTeGrate) project funded by the NSF in August, 2011.

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  16. Tom Curtis @64:

    Ergo, if the term is orwellian, then it is likely that many, even most would not agree with the implicit values encouraged by the term with clearer thought. And again, just because a term is misleading does not mean that all who use it are misled or intend to mislead.

    Tom, I have no doubt we agree on many things.  The importance of clear thinking is one of them 8^)!

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  17. Solely for the sake of clear thinking ;^), I'm back to respond to Tom Curtis's criticism:

    In your first example of the use of "the tragedy of the commons" by an ecologist, that by Berger-Tal et al, they get the use wrong even by Hardin's sense. In Hardin's sense, the 'tragedy of the commons' involves over exploitation of a resource due to common ownership.

    While I cited Berger-Tal et al. merely to demonstrate that 'Tragedy of the Commons' was a current term of art in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as in Economics, TomC's specific criticisms may appear reasonable to non-specialists.  This review article I just came across is more credible, from scientific metaliteracy if nothing else: DJ Rankin et al. 2007, The Tragedy of the Commons in Evolutionary Biology, Trends Ecol Evol 22 (12), 643-651.

    I also wanted to respond to this argument of Tom's:

    My point is that Hardin's use suggests that there is only one possible tragic result from use of the commons - something which is definitely false as shown by the tragic results of enclosure. In doing so it belittles the actual historical tragedy in favour of a hypothetical tragedy whose rhetorical use is to justify replicating the historical tragedy. That it has that rhetorical use does not mean it cannot, and has not been used by others in careful analysis.

    I presume Tom is aware that Hardin wrote in 1998:

    To judge from the critical literature, the weightiest mistake in my synthesizing paper was the omission of the modifying adjective "unmanaged."

    Now, I have no personal motive to defend Garrett J. Hardin over anyone else in history, but I'm unwilling to speculate on what he was thinking in 1968. By his own words (30 years later, to be sure), he did not intend to say that the entire class of problems labeled TotCs, including global human population growth, could only have tragic endings. So why did Stephen M. Gardiner assert in 2001 that Hardin had said exactly that? (Paywalled, but this is from the first page):

    In two celebrated and widely anthologized articles, as well as several books, the biologist Garrett Hardin claims (a) that the world population problem has a certain structure: it is a tragedy of the commons; and,(b) that, given this structure, the only tenable solutions involve either coercion or immense human suffering.

    IMO Gardiner's argument is a straw man, illuminating his agenda more than Hardin's. Absent probative contrary evidence, we may assume even Hardin sincerely abhorred both coercion and immense human suffering. Regardless, he's not responsible for what he did not say, nor for what other people say he did. Would you have it any other way?

    Summing up my position: it's evident that 'Tragedy of the Commons', as a term of disciplinary art for diverse, partially-overlapping classes of problems, is not widely considered offensive by Economists or Ecologists. Now that the term is established in both fields, efforts to replace it appear largely quixotic.

    OTOH 8^D: some economists, Ostrom inter alia, have chosen 'Drama of the Commons' as equally mnemonic and more concise, by including non-tragic endings. Since April, I've been using it on appropriate bloggy threads, when I know my audience can unpack it. Ostrom's prestige may give it wings. I'll keep my eye on it 8^).

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