The cost of acting first on climate change vs. the cost of not acting
“Lose-lose: the penalties of acting alone stall collective effort on climate change” is an article the Financial Times ran a while back. While the piece gives a panoramic analysis of the international prisoner’s dilemma, there are two other angles that are missing. The first is the penalties of no one acting. According to the UK’s environmental minister, the economic rationale for inaction is that the first country to act risks undergoing some degree of economic hardship. This, he explains, is "the last refuge of the deniers — the idea that it’s not worth anyone doing anything unless everyone does it."
It seems that actors are falsely interpreting an outcome that avoids economic costs as a win — but not so fast! The whole point of this debate is to avoid the costs of continually unregulated global warming.
Maybe someone needs to brief policymakers again on what the future is bound to look like when sea levels rise 20 feet, populations are famished from crop-damaging drought, and loved landmarks have been destroyed by hurricanes or wildfires.
The second flaw in the argument has to do with the traditional first-mover advantage for new technologies and new industries. Countries that go first in reducing emissions will develop the expertise and the technologies needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring global leadership in the job-creating clean industries of the future.
The time to act is now!