CPESC Presentation Commons 2008
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CPESC Presentation Commons 2008

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My presentation for my Comparative Perspectives in Environmental and Social Change module for my MA. Focussing on whether the classic "Tragedy of the Commons" model is still relevent to ...

My presentation for my Comparative Perspectives in Environmental and Social Change module for my MA. Focussing on whether the classic "Tragedy of the Commons" model is still relevent to international environmental politics.

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CPESC Presentation Commons 2008 CPESC Presentation Commons 2008 Presentation Transcript

  • The Tragedy of the Global Commons? Is Garret Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” thesis (1968) still of relevance in environmental politics and policy today?
  • Introduction
    • My framing of the topic
    • The original “tragedy of the commons” thesis – key features
    • Scaling up: the global commons?
    • The main political actors – states
    • The main economic actors – corporations
    • Relevance of Hardin’s model to the global commons of the atmosphere
    • Problems unique to the global commons
    • A commons-based solution to managing the atmosphere
    • The logic of the commons, and some problems
    • Conclusion
    • Sources
  • Hypothesis
    • In assessing whether Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons” thesis is still relevant, I intend to focus upon the relevance of his argument to the management of the “global commons” under current systems of global governance, using anthropogenic climate change as my case study.
  • Hardin’s model
    • “ As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximise his gain .”
    • “ Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination towards which all men rush.”
    • Human nature seen as:
      • Rational
      • Self-interested – the Cardinal Rule: “Never ask
      • a person to act against his own self-interest”.
    • Hardin’s solution = “ mutual coercion
    • mutually agreed upon”.
  • Scaling up: the Global Commons?
    • Global commons defined (Buck):
      • Common pool resources are “subtractable resources managed under a property regime in which a legally-defined user pool cannot be efficiently excluded from the resource domain”.
      • Commons are resource domains in which common pool resources are found.
      • International commons are resource domains shared by several nations
      • Global commons are resource domains to which all nations have legal access.
    • Key distinction : international commons are exclusionary, global commons are not.
  • The main political actors - states
    • Nation-states and the “international society of states”.
    • Traditional assumptions about this:
      • States are sovereign over their own territory
      • No state may interfere in the affairs of another state
      • Glaser : States are:
        • Rational, unitary actors
        • Give priority to insuring their security
    • Essentially, states rationally pursue their own self-interest.
  • The major economic actors - corporations
    • Transnational corporations :
    • Vogler : “Private sector business organisations and above all large transnational corporations are actors of the first importance. It is, after all, their activities… which frequently constitute the ultimate object of international co-operation to preserve the global commons.”
    • Rational pursuit of self-interest :
      • “ Acting rationally as a player means acting in accordance with the formal rules under which it is considered a participant. This means that corporations are designed to pay attention only to information about how to achieve goals such as profit maximisation” (Donaldson.
      • “ Any company that doesn’t respect shareholder value doesn’t do anyone any good” (Quote from Barnes).
  • Relevance of Hardin’s model to the global commons of the atmosphere
    • States and corporations each seen as rational , atomistic, self-interested actors – similar to Hardin’s original model.
    • Similar potential for the rational pursuit of self-interest to lead to ruin :
      • The atmosphere as commons : “One reason we don’t see our natural inheritance in cash is that no-one pays anything to use it” (Barnes).
      • The costs of climate change : “ Unchecked climate change would turn 200 million people into refugees… and cost £3.68 trillion” (Stern report).
  • Problems unique to the global commons
    • Dietz et al: Factors contributing to effective commons governance:
      • Resources and use of resources can be monitored relatively easily
      • Rates of change are moderate
      • Communities [i.e. those using the common resource] maintain frequent face-to-face communication and dense social networks
      • Outsiders can be excluded at relatively low cost from using the resource
      • Users support effective monitoring and rule enforcement
    • Generally speaking, these factors are not present at the global level.
  • Devising commons-based solutions
    • “ Contraction and Convergence ” (BBC)
    • Sets a safe and stable target for concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a date by which those concentrations should be achieved.
    • In principle, all citizens of the Earth have an equal right to emit .
    • The allocations to emit which are created by C&C are valuable because they are tradable .
    • A C&C agreement makes it possible for poor countries to finance their future defence against climate change and their "clean development", by trading their considerable excess emission shares to rich countries.
  • The logic of the commons
    • Logic :
      • Do not appeal to conscience because rational actors will reject it in defence of their own self-interest.
      • Instead, give them a rational incentive to limit their use of the commons, based on self-interest, and they will do so.
    • But :
      • What sort of body would determine an acceptable level of pollution, and on what basis?
      • How could this be enforced on a global level?
      • Hardin mentions the need for “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon”. What sort of organisation could command sufficient legitimacy to make and enforce a global trading regime?
  • Conclusion
    • An argument can be made that commons logic as proposed by Hardin is highly relevant to managing global resources such as the atmospheric.
    • However , the arguments presented here are just the beginning…some (Buck) would argue that the atmosphere is not a “commons resource” at all.
    • Remember Hardin’s point that some dilemmas do not have technical solutions (or do they? Carbon scrubbers…)
    • Dietz et al : “Is it possible to govern such critical commons as the… atmosphere? We remain guardedly optimistic.”
  • Sources
    • BARNES, P. (2001) Who Owns the Sky?, Washington, D.C., Island Press.
    • BBC (2006): “The fair choice for climate change”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4994296.stm
    • BUCK, S. J. (1998) The Global Commons: An Introduction, London, Earthscan Publications Ltd.
    • DIETZ, T., OSTROM, ELINOR, STERN, PAUL C. (2003) The Struggle to Govern the Commons. Science, 302 , 1907-1912.
    • DONALDSON, T. (1982) Corporations and Morality, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall Inc.
    • GARRETT HARDIN SOCIETY (2003) The Tragedy of the Commons (cartoons) . http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/
    • GLASER, C. L. (1995) Realists as Optimists: Cooperation as Self-Help. International Security, 19 , 3, pp. 50-90.
    • HARDIN, G. (1986) The Tragedy of the Commons. Biology, 162 , 1243-1248.
    • HARDIN, G. (1977) The Limits of Altruism: An Ecologist's View of Survival, Bloomington, Indiana University Press.
    • HINSCLIFF, G. (2006) £3.68 trillion: The price of failing to act on climate change. Observer. London.
    • VOGLER, J. (2000) The Global Commons: Environmental and Technological Governance, Chichester, John Wiley & Sons Ltd.