Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to deny that Australia’s contribution to carbon emissions was a factor in the bushfires.
What difference does a 1.3% contribution make?
This is an argument for never doing anything and it was contradicted by number of scientists.
Global carbon project executive director and CSIRO research scientist Pep Canadell said, ” It’s the tragedy of the commons. Because all the individual contributions are small, no one feels responsible.”
The tragedy of the commons is a systems archetype. Systems archetypes are patterns of behaviour that occur regularly in social, environmental and organisational systems. Tragedy of the commons is one of them and can be summarised “All for one and none for all.”
The fundamental dynamic is that individuals act in their own interests and those individual activities act as a feedback loop that begins to drive the activities of the entire group who, in acting in their own self-interest ultimately act against interests of the whole group.
Usually, this archetype applies to the exploitation of a resource such as fishing grounds where each individual seeks to maximise their returns at the expense of others and ultimately the common resource is exhausted.
In the case of carbon emissions, the effect of each nation with low levels of carbon emissions, ( between !% and 2%) ignoring their contribution means that the overall effect of their individual actions is equal to that of a large polluter, such as China or the US.
In other words, each small polluter looks at what their neighbours are doing and says “Why should I change, if they do not?” and the effect is cumulative so that none of the small polluters change their behaviours.
Their combined impact on the “commons” (the global environment) is, in effect, the same as one of the large polluters.
An act of leadership which establishes a changed dynamic amongst the small polluters may be sufficient to make a huge difference to global pollution levels.
Part of the tragedy the commons is that it is clear that this act of leadership is not going to come from Australia.