The Tragedy Of The Commons: Ozone Depletion And Climate Change

1482 words - 6 pages

As the twenty-first century progresses, it has become increasingly apparent just how many challenges the world faces. Prominent among these concerns are environmental issues, in particular, ozone depletion and climate change. While the international community has been exceptionally successful in its struggle to reduce the production and consumption of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the organic compounds that contribute to the ozone issue, its efforts to tackle climate change have yielded considerably fewer advancements. A number of factors that helped the proceedings of the ozone regime, or campaign, are not applicable to the climate change regime. The issue of limiting CFCs was much less politically and economically charged than that of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs), which cause the greenhouse effect and the consequent warming of the planet. Climate change has been referred to as the ultimate “tragedy of the commons”, an important metaphor in economics that helps explain why this subject is still at the centre of much heated debate and has yet to be resolved in a manner similar to that of the ozone problem.
Before analyzing why climate change is possibly the best example of a “tragedy of the commons” situation, it is necessary to begin with an explanation of this concept. In a “tragedy of the commons” circumstance there is a shared resource. This resource is limited, posing a problem to each of those included in the collective ownership as each individual is concerned with furthering their own interests. This interest is primarily to get as much out of the resource as possible. If each member of the group is to act in this self-benefiting manner, the resource will be exhausted to the point where it is no longer sustainable. Although all parties are aware that the overuse of this resource is not in the best interests of the whole, they are still compelled to act so as to increase their profit while the resource is still available. (Lecture) An additional, powerful factor in the decision to consciously abuse the shared resource is the understanding that if they do not take advantage of an opportunity for great profit, someone else will. Eventually everyone will suffer from the exploitation of the communal resource, but the desire to reap the benefits while the going is good dominates that of ensuring the resource remains sustainable. The actors involved fail to realize that, though there may be considerable gain that arises from their actions, these benefits are short-term. The devastating ramifications of their actions, however, are long-term and irreversible.
The issue of climate change takes the tragedy of the commons metaphor to a global level, in which the resource, a life-sustaining atmosphere, is shared internationally. A typical, elementary example of the tragedy of the commons involves a shared pasture (the commons), and a group of farmers destroying it by adding more of their own cows to the land. (Lecture) While sad, this does not...

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