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Climate Treaty Negotiators Are Taking the Wrong Approach, Say Game Theorists 227

An anonymous reader writes "Climate treaty negotiators would do well to have a little chat with some game theorists, according to this article. The fundamental approach they've been taking for the last several years is flawed, these researchers say, and they can prove it. From the article: 'The scientists gave members of a 10-member group their country’s “treasure”: a 20-euro national savings account, plus a fund for spending on emissions reductions that consisted of 10 black chips worth 10 cents apiece and 10 red chips worth one euro apiece. Each person could then contribute any number of these chips to a common pool. The contributed chips represented greenhouse gas reduction strategies that were relatively inexpensive (black) or expensive (red). Players could communicate freely about their plans for how many chips they intended to contribute.'"
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Climate Treaty Negotiators Are Taking the Wrong Approach, Say Game Theorists

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @09:17AM (#41990625)

    The negotiations must fail, because they're all based on blame and negativity. Fingerpointing between the first world and the developing world is not at all useful. Every premise we've seen so far has been based on the lose-lose more strategy of negotiating.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @09:37AM (#41990745)

    Uhm, China has been quite willing over the past two decades. Especially in the period 1990 - 2005 China was open for serious reductions. It was the stubborn asshole-ness of Australia, USA and Canada that eventually made China turn around. If you want to play the blame game I suggest you start with Team USA.

    (posting as anonymous as I don't want my account linked to this comment, I work on this for the Canadian government)

  • Re:Enough Gaming (Score:2, Interesting)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @09:37AM (#41990751) Journal
    Countries do and do not communicate their real and fake intentions, single points of influence in the system have excessively large of small effects, corporations lobby in multiple countries....the whole system is so chaotic (in a mathematical sense) that trying to simulate it with a small game-theory experiment can't have any bearing on real life, surely?
  • Re:Enough Gaming (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @10:09AM (#41990997) Homepage

    Yep. The problem is that the game they play has nothing to do with fixing the climate.

    It's all about ass-covering and not appearing 'weak' in front of your peers. The same game that governs high schools, street gangs, prisons and, to a lesser extent, chimpanzee groups.

  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @10:18AM (#41991085)

    The given scenario states, that we are all doomed, because there is no fixed point of disaster. However, they missed one thing. If if we had a fixed point. The point is outside of our lifespan. The effect of our doing will hit our children children. Therefore, the game has to be changed. You get the money and can spend it on green stuff. And when enough of the others do the same, the next group of people who plays the game gets the money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @10:59AM (#41991461)

    You've phrased that incorrectly, because all people can "behave according" to game theory, but they may not be aware or else each be playing at a different game. In their example, they demonstrate incetive based reasoning with clear short term and long term benefits. They found that most people chose the short term benefit because they couldn't justify the value of their contribution to the more intangible long term benefit. So they took their chances on being able to weather what they considered a lesser loss.

    If, in this game, they were told to play three times where after the first game the chips they had left were passed on to their children to use in the next, they could more realistically see the results of their decisions. If they did not contribute to the pot, then the threshold would never decrease, and they would be able to see that their children did not have a chance, no matter what they did. If their incentive switched from being able to keep a few coins to ensuring the survival of their children, the results might have been dramatically different.

    Many people will do less than they possibly can because of the idea that someone else somehow pick up the slack, that their contribution in the grand scale of things doesn't matter, or that it's a waste of time and energy to tackle such small problems when they have so much else to do, which may be true in many cases. We have street sweepers, so why pick up the litter along the gutters? Why make a mock up of those projections myself, if I'm pretty sure Erica is already doing them? Why shouldn't we keep drilling for coal and oil and then converting it to CO2, we've been doing it for centuries and the planet is still here?

    Conversely, there are also people who think primarily in the long term and make decisions which are designed to avoid expected future issues. However, it is a difficult position to justify, uphold, and perhaps monetize when others are already gaining profit from the things you've intentionally abstained from doing. Game theory is practical in this sense, because it demonstrates outcomes of decisions that rely on deeply human nature and gives us a chance to either meet it or rise above it; we use it to see realistically how we use our intellect.

  • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:11AM (#41991565)

    Agreed, we should restrict imports from the biggest polluters, especially America.

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:10PM (#41992945)

    Some 300 million US Americans manage to generate the carbon footprint of a Billion Chinese, while 500 million Europeans can hardly hold a candle to the US in terms of carbon emissions.

    Well the reality is that 200 million Chinese manage to generate the carbon footprint of 300 million US Americans while the other 1.1 billion Chinese generate very little. Both the US and China need to get their shit together, while India should be commended for being able to ramp up their economy without generating so many greenhouse gases. For bargaining purposes, a more fair arrangement is to agree to a limit of X tons/person + Y tons/GDP.

  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:31PM (#41993839)

    If you actually did pay for yours, then no one would complain. The problem is when you dump all of your externalities on everyone else and expect them to pay for yours too.

    What you just recommended is for him to minimize his externalities while letting everyone else dump theirs on him. While you are at it, why not ask him to bend over and let people repeatedly stick it in him?

    You are proving his point. Imagine a 20-player version of prisoners dilemma with an asymmetric payoff table that allows coalitions. There will undoubtedly be at least one player whos dominant strategy (always derives greater benefit) is to make the move that incidentally hurts other players the most. The only way to convince these player(s) to cooperate is to pay them off an amount equal to or greater than what they have to sacrifice in order to cooperate.

    Outside of game theory, this phenomena is called tragedy of the commons.

    In general for all 3 or more player games, unless the game is carefully crafted to disallow it, the best move is to seek to form a coalition that puts you in a group that has a dominant strategy position and then work to undermine competing groups that also have dominant strategy positions. The only way this doesnt go tragedy-of-the-commons is when everyone benefits whenever the strongest group benefits.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"