Cooperation studies of catastrophe avoidance: implications for climate negotiations

Mark Hurlstone, Susie Wang, Annabel Price, Zoe Leviston, Iain WALKER

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The landmark agreement recently negotiated in Paris represents an ambitious plan to combat climate change. Nevertheless, countries’ current climate pledges are insufficient to achieve the agreement’s goal of keeping global mean temperature rise “well below” 2 C. It is apparent that climate negotiators need to be equipped with additional strategies for fostering cooperation if a climate catastrophe is to be averted. We review the results arising from an emerging literature in which the problem of avoiding dangerous climate change has been simulated using cooperation experiments in which individuals play a game requiring collective action to avert a catastrophe. This literature has uncovered five key variables that influence the likelihood of avoiding disaster: (1) the perceived risk of collective failure, (2) inequalities in historical responsibility, wealth, and risk exposure, (3) uncertainty surrounding the threshold for catastrophe, (4) intergenerational discounting, and (5) the prospect of reward or punishment based on reputation. Along with the results of a recent experimental assessment of the key instruments of the Paris Agreement, we consider how knowledge of the effects of these variables might be harnessed by climate negotiators to improve the prospects of reaching a solution to global climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-133
Number of pages15
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


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