A press release by the Max Planck Institute (MPI) describes how a recent study shows that people are not very willing to make sacrifices if the benefits follow only much later in the future. That’s no surprise.
Immediate rewards make our brains rejoice and when such a reward beckons we’re happy to behave cooperatively. But if achieving a common goal won’t be rewarded until a few weeks have gone by, we are rather less euphoric and less cooperative. And if, instead of money, we’re offered the prospect of a benefit for future generations, our enthusiasm for fair play wanes still further.
Climate change is the largest public goods game that has ever been played and the whole of humanity are its players. The problem is that while we are now making the payments, the fruits of our efforts will only be enjoyed very much later and they will be shared among the whole of humanity. We ourselves or our children will thus benefit only very slightly from any restrictions we place on our lives today and our motivation actually to do something is correspondingly low.
You can read the entire Max Planck Institute press release here.
What’s remarkable about the study is that it accepts, as proven fact, that the climate will be much worse in the future – although we know 98% of the climate models have completely overstated the warming for the last 15 years.
Just imagine what the results of the study would have been had the test subjects been shown the models’ true performance beforehand. Why sacrifice when you know there isn’t going to be any benefit at all, ever?
And why inflict pain on yourself when you know the politicians, elitists and scientists will simply continue jetting around and living high on the hog while letting the poor taxpaying masses make all the sacrifice?
What do the study’s results imply?
The MPI press release writes:
‘The result of our experiment paints a gloomy picture of the future;’ summarizes Milinski. ‘We were unfortunately able to confirm Schelling’s prediction – it’s a disaster.'”
Yes, it’s a disaster: people aren’t going to sacrifice and embrace Spartan green living.
As a solution, the MPI proposes providing “short term benefits” to make going green more attractive. But how? Very disappointingly, the only short-term benefit the MPI is able to come up with is the benefit of “exporting technology”. But that won’t work because only a very few people would benefit quickly from exporting green technology (and my how they’ve benefitted so far!), and the rest of us would have to, well, keep sacrificing.
Only option left: force people to sacrifice
It seems the only option left, the MPI implies, is to force the necessary sacrifices onto the citizens, i.e. to ram it down their throats. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate demonstration of power?
Politicians and activist scientists have already convinced many among us to open up wide and to let the big pill gun into their mouths. All that’s left to do now is to force it down with one mighty thrust.