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Climate Change Solution Proposed By Scientists Incorporates Game Theory

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Many feel that U.N. climate talks don't quite breed an atmosphere of cooperation, nor bring about successful, binding carbon emissions targets.

Remember when WWF and Oxfam flushed Saudi Arabia's nameplate down the toilet at the U.N. Conference in Bonn, Germany last year? And many can't forget the disappointment felt after Copenhagen in December, 2009.

But now, sinking island nations and environmental groups might have a glimmer of hope. Scientists have come up with a solution that combines game theory with linear compensation, a social psychology model, reports Silicon Republic.

Linear compensation is a scalable method of rewards and punishments to help develop strategies that encourage all nations to truly participate in greenhouse gas mitigation programs. It is based on the rational thought of game theory that each country will act rationally in its own self-interest, reports Science Daily.

In their paper, "Paths To Climate Cooperation", authors Thomas Dietz and Jinhua Zhao comment on an earlier study by Jobst Heitzig, Kai Lessmann, and Yong Zou that says instead of imposing fixed punishments like the Kyoto Protocol, linear compensation calls for the punishment to be adjusted relative to how well other nations met the emissions goals.

The trio's study, Self-Enforcing Strategies To Deter Free-Riding In The Climate Change Mitigation Game And Other Repeated Public Good Games, was the first of its kind to apply linear compensation to climate change negotiations. The proposed strategy redistributes liabilities according to past compliance levels in a proportionate and timely way.

"A key feature of linear compensation is that if a nation fails to meet its treaty obligations, other nations punish it by reducing their own abatement," Zhao said in a press statement. "So each nation has leverage: its own abatement helps make other nations abate more. This is the beauty of the linear compensation mechanism."

Who knows? Perhaps this diplomatic riddle could now be solved at the next U.N. climate talks. The only roadblock is getting countries to commit to something that might punish them.

CORRECTION: This article previously said Thomas Dietz and Jinhua Zhao came up with linear compensation for climate change negotiations. However, the original authors to propose such a theory to be applied to negotiating international binding carbon emissions reduction targets came from Jobst Heitzig, Kai Lessmann, and Yong Zou in their paper Self-Enforcing Strategies To Deter Free-Riding In The Climate Change Mitigation Game And Other Repeated Public Good Games. This has now been updated to reflect that correction.

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