Tragedy of the Climate

In Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”, he addresses the concern of overpopulation in regards to the limited resources and ask is there is a way to avoid the damage caused by overpopulation without giving up the privileges humans are able to enjoy. He explains how humans seek to “maximize their own gain” without taking into consideration how they are impacting the greater population. Hardin connects his “tragedy of the commons” to environmental issues such as pollution and seeks to find a solution to this “no technical solution problem.”1

Over the past two decades, several countries have adopted the practice of putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions with the hopes to reduce pollution in a world where climate change is a significant problem. Several European countries as well as Canada, Mexico, and Australia have put a price on these emissions however the charge doesn’t seem to be making a large impact rather just adding another payment for these companies. Canada’s new emission program is the most ambitious charging $15-$30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide. However, if China passes their new program they will surpass Canada to have the largest carbon program in the world.2

Is a democratic or authoritarian regime more motivated to combat the issue of climate change and which is more effective with their efforts?

While putting a price on carbon emissions may be effective in raising awareness for global warming, it doesn’t necessarily provide a solution to the rapidly increasing problem. In authoritarian countries such as Russia, the government has established corporatist relationships and many of the large companies are owned by Putin’s friends. Putin is probably less inclined to tax people who he handed a business to making a solution such as carbon pricing ineffective for a large number of countries. In Britain on the other hand, being a leader in the industrial revolution which lead to a significant portion of the current pollution, has been able to lower their emission with such pricing programs.


  1. Garrett Hardin, “Tragedy of the Commons” Found in J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
  2. Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, “These Countries have Prices on Carbon. Are they Working?” New York Times, April 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/02/climate/pricing-carbon-emissions.html