Friday, December 24, 2010

The Zero-Sum World?

Beyond The Zero-Sum World?

December 23, 2010 - In the run-up to the UN climate conference in Cancun earlier this month, the emphasis was definitely on low expectations. The hangover of Copenhagen was palpable.

So when the results of Cancun were tallied up, the consensus was that the gathering exceeded those low expectations. In fact, Harvard University political scientist Robert Stavins argued compellingly in “The Christian Science Monitor” that Cancun was “hugely successful.” He noted that the failed Kyoto process was flawed because it divided “the world into competing economic camps.” The Cancun accords, by contrast, embodied a general recognition that the industrialized world must recognize their responsibility for historical emissions and that all countries must take responsibility for future admissions.

This might seem like common sense to outside observers, but it is a huge victory for the process of creating a process for confronting climate change, if not a victory for actually confronting climate change. Blogger David Hone agrees that the conference “opened up a number of new work streams.”

As someone who is more than a little concerned about climate change (as well as about the other impacts of unchecked industrialization and consumption), I might have been disheartened by such result if I hadn’t happened to be reading Gideon Rachman’s “Zero-Sum World” at the same time. Longtime economics journalist Rachman gives a sweeping history of economics and politics since the late 1970s and argues that since the 2008 global crisis, “a win-win world is giving way to a zero-sum world.” “After a long period of international co-operation [following the collapse of the Soviet Union], competition and rivalry are returning to the international system,” he writes. {continued}

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