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Are politicians playing poker with the world’s climate?

poker chips.jpg
Credit: Shutterstock

By James Dacey

As all earth scientists know, the climate is a fiendishly complex system and — whilst there is now broad agreement that anthropogenic climate change is happening — the extent and severity of its effects are still a matter of significant debate.

Now, when you toss this issue into the international policy arena you are also mixing it with all the national, economic and social issues that pervade the political decision making process. In short you have the recipe for some very messy negotiations.

So just how are climate practitioners (let alone interested citizens) supposed to make head or tail of political negotiations on the road to the UN conference on climate change taking place in Copenhagen this December?

Well a group of researchers in the US and Finland have come up with an interesting approach to this problem by framing the COP15 conference as a giant game of international poker.

In a paper released today the researchers outline the main “bargaining chips” which they say are being used by nations to negotiate a deal on climate change.

Sikina Jinnah of the American University and her colleagues’ main argument is that what some countries see as potential barriers, others see as gambling chips. For example, some developing countries may see the need for secure commitments on finance for adaptation to a low carbon society as a key barrier. However, these same countries may view mitigation actions on their part as a key bargaining chip to secure cash from developed countries on the adaptation issue.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that a gambling metaphor has been used in connection with anthropomorphic climate change. Back in March I wrote about the claim that we are playing roulette with the climate by taking a one in six chance of a “tipping event”.

For a more detailed review of this latest research then check out this article on

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One comment to Are politicians playing poker with the world’s climate?

  1. R Fuller

    Back in Medieval Times, science, religion, and politics had strong opinions of each other — in order for monarchs to keep their peasants in line, they made certain technologies illegal to all but nobility, and religions spread their propaganda.
    I hope we’ve gone beyond that.


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