Game Theory and the Self-Fulfilling Climate Tragedy
Matthew Kopec (Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics)

April 27, 2016, 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Philosophy program, La Trobe University

MAR 369 (Martin Building, Level 3, Room 369)
La Trobe University Bundoora


Cath Yuri
La Trobe University


Abstract: It has become common practice within the game theoretic literature on climate change negotiations to model the problem as a so-called “Tragedy of the Commons.” If this model is right, we’re probably all in trouble, since the conditions under which such commons problems have historically been “solved” are almost entirely absent in the case of international carbon emissions. But I’m not so pessimistic. In this paper, I will offer some reasons to think that the predictive accuracy of the tragedy model actually stems not from the model’s match with reality, but rather from the model’s ability to make self-fulfilling predictions within our current international setting. I then sketch some possible ways to dispel the tragedy, including (1) recognizing that humans have altruistic preferences, (2) building negotiating teams that are likely to act more altruistically, and (3) preferring alternative models like the bargaining game or cooperative game theory models. I conclude by discussing what role values should play when the scientist finds herself choosing between likely self-fulfilling models.

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