Revisiting the Global Storm

Interestingly, the tyranny of the contemporary analysis of the intergenerational storm further undermines the standard (tragedy of the commons) account of the global storm.

On the one hand, if generational ruthlessness dominates, the global collective action problem of most interest to existing institutions might be that of finding ways for the current generation in powerful nations to cooperate in passing costs onto the future. This “problem”—how to facilitate a tyranny of the contemporary—looks easier to resolve than a standard tragedy of the commons (e.g., governments committed to intergenerational buck-passing may have no reason to defect). Yet solving it is not a task for an ethical public policy: it constitutes a shadow solution to climate change.

On the other hand, if, as I have suggested, the main driver of the tyranny of the contemporary is institutional inadequacy, the necessary new institutions might radically change the shape of the global collective action, rendering it much less tragic. For instance, institutions that successfully embody strong intergenerational concern will presumably see climate change as a serious threat, and so not even be tempted to defect from robust action. Consequently, their existence would radically transform the spatial dimension of climate policy.

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