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理想主义加经济学:战胜气候危机的希望

更新时间:2015-5-4 9:29:40 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How Idealism, Expressed in Concrete Steps, Can Fight Climate Change
理想主义加经济学:战胜气候危机的希望

Idealism combined with an intriguing application of economic theory may accomplish what international conferences have not: solving the seemingly intractable problem of global warming.

理想主义和经济理论一个有趣应用的结合可能完成国际会议都没有解决的、看似棘手的全球气候变暖问题。

Despite periodic flurries of optimism, diplomacy has been largely disappointing. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, for example, in which many nations agreed to impose strict taxes on carbon emissions, hasn’t accomplished much. And subsequent climate conferences haven’t come up with an effective solution. Secretary of State John Kerry summed up the diplomatic landscape in December at the United Nations climate change conference in Lima, Peru: “We’re still on a course leading to tragedy.”

尽管周期性地出现零星乐观进展,但外交已经在很大程度上令人失望。例如,在1997年的《京都议定书》里许多国家同意严格征收碳排放税,却并没有取得很大成就。随后的气候会议没有提出有效的解决方案。美国国务卿克里12月在秘鲁利马的联合国气候变化会议上总结了外交政策的现状:“我们仍然在一条导致悲剧的道路上。”

From an economic standpoint, international efforts until now have foundered on a fundamental “free rider problem.” In a nutshell, individuals and nations that bear the immediate costs of measures to protect the atmosphere will experience only a small fraction of the benefits, which are shared by all the people and nations on the planet. Why not just take a “free ride” and let others do the hard work?

从经济的角度来看,国际努力到现在为止已经失败在基本的“搭便车问题”上。简而言之,承担采取措施保护环境的眼前成本的国家和个人,得到的福利却只有一小部分。而这些福利是由地球上的全体人民和国家共享的。如此,为什么不干脆“搭便车”,让别人去辛勤工作呢?

In traditional economic theory, the benefits of reducing emissions take the form of an “externality,” meaning they are external to the local environment because they are spread over the whole world. Our own contributions are often too small to see or feel.

传统的经济理论认为,减排福利采取了“外部性”的形式,这意味着它们和当地的环境是不相关的,因为这些福利遍布整个世界。我们自己的贡献往往太小,无法看到或感觉到。

When the problem is an externality, it is, for the most part, futile to ask people to volunteer to fix it — by taking actions like car-pooling or riding a bike to work to cut back on emissions or, in the case of governments, by enacting laws and regulations.

当问题成了一个外部事物的时候,在大多数情况下,要求人们自愿去修复它是徒劳的,比如通过拼车或骑自行车上班来削减排放量,或者政府制定法律法规。

Yes, some individuals with a strong moral compass will take action, and some nations will do so occasionally, but most people and countries will not do so consistently. That’s what the theory says, anyway.

是的,有些人用强烈的道德指向来采取行动,有些国家也会时不时地这么做,但大多数国家和人民不会持续地采取措施。反正,这就是该理论讲的内容。

But in a new book, “Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet” (Princeton 2015), Gernot Wagner of the Environmental Defense Fund and Martin L. Weitzman, a Harvard economist, question that assumption. In a proposal that they call the Copenhagen Theory of Change, they say that we should be asking people to volunteer to save our climate by taking many small, individual actions.

但在他们的新书《气候休克:全球变暖的经济后果》(普林斯顿大学出版社,2015年)中,保护环境基金会的日尔诺特·瓦格纳和哈佛大学经济学家马丁·L·魏茨曼对这个理论提出了质疑。两人提出了他们所谓的哥本哈根改变理论,指出,我们应该要求人们主动采取许多个人行动,从小处着手,去拯救气候。

Copenhagen has motivated half of its habitants to commute to work by bicycle every day, the Danish government says. How did that come about? A half-century ago, the city’s inhabitants were becoming almost as reliant on cars as people anywhere else. But after the oil crisis of the 1970s, the authors point out, many Copenhagen residents made a personal commitment to ride bicycles rather than drive, out of moral principle, even if that was inconvenient for them.

丹麦政府说,哥本哈根已经促使其一半的居民每天骑自行车上下班。这是怎么发生的呢?半个世纪之前,全市居民和其他地方的人一样几乎都有汽车依赖症。但作者指出,上世纪70年代的石油危机之后,许多哥本哈根居民出于道德原则作出个人承诺要骑自行车而不是开汽车,即使这对他们来说是不方便的。

That happened in American cities, too, but in Copenhagen there was more social support and, perhaps, social pressure to join in the movement. The sight of so many others riding bikes motivated the city’s inhabitants and appears to have improved the moral atmosphere enough to surmount the free-rider problem.

美国的城市也是如此,但在哥本哈根有更多的社会支持,或者说是社会压力来参加这个运动。这么多人骑自行车的景象激励着城市居民,这似乎增加了足够的道德氛围去克服搭便车的问题。

Elinor Ostrom won her Nobel in economics partly for observing that communities often solve free-rider problems. She was talking generally about contained communities like Copenhagen, not global ones. Its idealism about global warming has not spread worldwide. But she argued for a polycentric approach to climate change, with actions against global warming taken not just on a global scale but on a whole array of scales, involving smaller communities as well as the entire planet.

埃莉诺·奥斯特罗姆(Elinor Ostrom)赢得诺贝尔经济学奖部分是因为发现社区常常可以解决搭便车问题。她讲的一般是像哥本哈根这样的自成一体的社区,而不是全球社区的。它关于全球变暖的理想主义并没有扩散到全球。但她主张用多中心的方法来应对气候变化,不仅是在全球的规模而且要在各个规模上采取行动,包括小的社区,也包括整个星球。

There are communities based on shared interests, not on geography, and people who believe in socially responsible investing may be considered one such community. If ethical investing takes the form of investing only in “green” companies, for example, excluding companies that pollute the atmosphere, such measures may have a similar positive impact.

有的社群是基于共同利益的,而非地理位置;有些人相信应该做出负有社会责任的投资,他们就构成了这样的社群。如果合乎道德的投资仅投资在“绿色”的公司上,例如,不包括污染大气的公司,那么这样的措施可能具有相似的积极影响。

Of course, one might dismiss ethical investing as achieving nothing more than creating opportunities for unethical investors, who will be more than happy to step in if there is money to be made. But placing a deviant enterprise on a list of companies to be avoided by ethical investors could change the moral atmosphere, much as bicycling has in Copenhagen — increasing the likelihood of a broader, successful social movement against pollution of the world’s atmosphere.

当然,有人可能会认为,道德的投资结果会一事无成,而更多的是为非道德的投资者创造机会:只要有钱可以赚,非道德投资者就会很乐意参与。但是,把一个不守规矩的企业列在黑名单上,使它得不到合乎道德的投资,这种做法可以改变社会风气,就像哥本哈根的自行车——增加为抵制世界污染而发起的更广泛、成功的社会运动的可能性。

The world is a diverse and complicated place, however. To combat global warming, social movements aren’t enough. We also need a concrete framework on a global scale.

然而,世界是一个多元又复杂的地方。为应对全球变暖,仅社会运动是不够的。我们还需要全球范围内保护环境的具体架构。

In his presidential address before the American Economic Association in Boston in January, William D. Nordhaus of Yale proposed what he calls “climate clubs.” Here is a genuinely concrete idea that might work to stop global warming. As he defines it, a climate club is a group of countries that agree to create incentives for people to reduce carbon emissions, while also erecting tariff barriers on imports from countries that are not members of the club.

1月在波士顿面向美国经济协会致辞的时候,耶鲁大学的威廉·D·诺德豪斯提出了“气候俱乐部”设想。这是个有可能阻止全球变暖的具体方案。诺德豪斯说,气候俱乐部是指这样一些国家,它们同意创造激励措施,鼓励人们减少碳排放,同时也会对来自俱乐部之外国家的商品进口设置关税壁垒。

The tariff barriers contribute to a virtuous cycle: They provide an incentive for countries in the club to create incentives for individuals to reduce emissions. Professor Nordhaus’s analysis relies on the economic theory of clubs and on his own Coalition DICE model, which shows costs and benefits from reducing emissions for each country or region in the world today.

关税壁垒有助于良性循环:它们为俱乐部成员国奖励减少碳排放的个人提供了动力。诺德豪斯的分析依赖于俱乐部的经济理论和他自己的DICE联合模型,该模型展示了当今世界上各个国家和地区减少碳排放的成本与收益。

A climate club may start with only a few countries and then grow as others join. The club may grow through time rather than collapse as we saw with the Kyoto Protocol. Now they will be coming into the club as they see, over the years, the advantages of membership.

气候俱乐部开始可能只有少数几个国家,然后其他国家逐渐加入。俱乐部规模可能会随着时间不断壮大,而不是像我们看到的《京都议定书》那样走向崩溃。随着时间推移,加入俱乐部的优势显现,就会有更多国家选择加入。

In its pure form, the economic theory of clubs assumes that each country and individual is completely self-interested and has no interest in helping any others. But, in reality, people are not quite like that. There is some community feeling — including a sense of responsibility for the world community. Clubs might ultimately rely on such feelings to be successful.

纯粹形式的俱乐部经济理论认为,每个国家和个人是完全自利的,他们对帮助别人没有任何兴趣。但实际上,人们并非如此。有一些社群含有对国际社会的责任感。俱乐部可能最终会依靠这种责任感走向成功。

Club founders must overcome real-world obstacles, objections from climate change deniers and those who simply don’t understand the issues or the stakes we are facing. Who is going to undertake such difficult and expensive actions without some sense of moral principle?

俱乐部创始人必须克服现实障碍和反对意见,这些反对意见来自否认气候变化的人以及那些不理解这件事情或者不理解其中利害关系的人。如果没有某种意义上的道德原则感受,谁会去承担这样困难和代价巨大的行动?

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