Global warming is often cited as an example of ‘the tragedy of the commons’, where a resource is overused until there is none left. Even though people know that it will eventually run out they still overuse it.
What is different about global warming?
The difference is that a high number of people don’t believe in it. With an example like overfishing everyone must agree that if every fish was taken out of the sea then there would be none left. They may argue about what level of fishing is too much but they all agree that there is a level that is too much.
With global warming about half of Americans don’t believe it is happening.
In a tragedy of the commons everyone knows that overusing the resource will eventually use it all up but with global warming half of people don’t think there is even a problem.
Today’s takeaway: A tragedy of the commons is hard enough to avoid even if everyone accepts that there is a problem. If people don’t even accept the problem it will be impossible.