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Theory roulette: choosing that climate change is not a tragedy of the commons

Ortmann, Jakob and Veit, Walter (2023) Theory roulette: choosing that climate change is not a tragedy of the commons. Environmental Values, 32 (1). 65 - 89. ISSN 0963-2719

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Identification Number: 10.3197/096327122X16452897197784


Climate change mitigation has become a paradigm case both for externalities in general and for the game-theoretic model of the Tragedy of the Commons (ToC) in particular. This situation is worrying, as we have reasons to suspect that some models in the social sciences are apt to be performative to the extent that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Framing climate change mitigation as a hardly solvable coordination problem may force us into a worse situation, by changing real-world behaviour to fit our model, rather than the other way around. But while this problem of the performativity of the ToC has been noted in a recent paper in this journal by Matthew Kopec, his proposed strategies for dealing with their self-fulfilling nature fall short of providing an adequate solution. Instead of relying on the idea that modelling assumptions are always strictly speaking false, this paper shows that the problem may be better framed as a problem of underdetermination between competing explanations. Our goal here is to provide a framework for choosing between this set of competing models that allows us to avoid a ‘Russian Roulette’-like situation in which we gamble with existential risk.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The White Horse Press.
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2023 12:30
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 18:36

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