Climate change: Game theory holds a solution
Yoginder K Alagh
After the Kutch earthquake the government wanted to involve NGOs to work towards rehabilitation, PK Mishra, current secretary to the prime minister, had involved me to do this work. Now, in the context of recurring floods, Mishra has written an interesting piece on disasters and climate change. While we all know that climate change is a problem that is affecting our lives, there is seldom any concrete action on the issue. Climate change cannot be tackled as a local issue, global support is required to counter the problem. India is important at what it does, but the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement has dealt a serious blow. Without the Global North and Global South coming together, there cannot be a solution.
The issue of climate change is important for India, but the country has been sidelined in global debates. As the economy grows and so does India’s importance on the global stage, it is expected to take a more primary role. The magnitude of problems may not be clear, but as Mishra remarks how can we possible factor in uncertainty in decisions which are important.
Besides, importance is out of the question. India is witnessing rains and floods in October, when the withdrawal date is mid-September. A friend said that the METwallahs say its not non-normal as estimated variations in kharif rainfall do factor in such events. But given my previous association with statistics—I was the president of The Indian Econometrics Society—this is highly unlikely. To determine an event as black swan, it needs to be a one-off phenomenon and not of recurring nature. Probability of a repeated delay in monsoon year after year, thus, shows that it is not just an anomaly.
Environment is becoming a style statement. Academics and experts have taken a back seat. Some contest that there is no solid proof suggesting climate change. Then how can we make our policy apparatus seriously consider a non-exactly defined disaster? We are in dire need of a policy. Niti Aayog did promise a “seven-year vision”, and the plan is much awaited.
One possible method is use of game theory. Game theory is all about reactions of different players (stakeholders) to assumed actions by other ‘players’. The game theory approach is an interesting way to analyse the future or possibilities in an uncertain field as it forces analysts to be specific to the extent possible accounting for uncertainty.
In the case of climate change, large countries, big blocs , treaty partners and other groups, including businesses, investors and media, can be asked to adopt this approach. They can create simulations to emerge with the best possible policy.
If land, water and energy, have to be placed in a globally competitive regime, the exercise can have an exciting realistic paradigm. Further, given the groups involved almost realistic processes of communication and trade-offs will emerge.
A positive outcome that emerges from such cooperation of different actors, facing a complex problem, will push them out of short-term zero-sum policy stances. A detailed profile of the exercise and its outcomes may emerge reducing the uncertainty of data and, therefore, outcomes.
The world, both the global north and south, will make quantum leaps to ensure a greener planet. Avoiding severe water shortages, improvements in irrigation efficiency and cropping intensity will be much faster. Bad coal of over a billion tonnes will not to be burnt, if alternative energy life and management styles are implemented and hydel and nuclear plants are completed. There will be a major focus on renewables.
Trade and globalisation have to grapple with these issues. If such links cannot be established in concrete terms, an enduring future will remain a dream. If communities are out of balance with their resource endowments, there can be no question of significant advance in the areas of global concern like climate change, carbon sequestration or biodiversity. PK Mishra has raised an important policy planning issue. Will Niti Aayog delve in to this?
The author, a former Union minister, is an economist