Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Can proper education allow reputation to foster action on climate change?

Posted 20 Sep 2012 / 0

Daily KosEvolution, Cooperation, and Climate

I like some of the ideas that are expressed here. In a culture where the threat of climate change was well-understood, those who seek to deny its existence would be marginalized. It is true that history might judge those currently fighting against action on climate change, but current reputation is the what determines whether cooperation can occur now.

There are, however, so some serious problems with this line of argument. The first has to do with scale. In the Scientific American article referenced, Nowak is not talking about individual reputation in relation to climate change: he is talking about the reputation of whole countries. Given the fact that meaningful action on climate change can only occur at the international scale, talking about individual reputation misses the fundamental scale at which climate change is driven. It may be true that a little local shame for driving an SUV might slightly lower the overall impact of the United States, but for the most part we are all guilty of driving climate change and therefore almost all our citizens deserve a bad reputation on climate change. If everyone has a bad reputation, reputational effects are not going to support cooperation on climate change.

The other issue I have with this assessment is the same one I expressed in reviewing Nowak’s article: I believe that it is naive to think that such massive problems can be solved by the local action of reputation alone. If countries want to maintain a good reputation within the community of nations, they should enact regulations that force their citizens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; countries cannot effectively be in the business of fostering local reputation-based cooperation.

A Minor Post, Climate Change, Cooperation, Group Selection, Reputation, Web

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