Game Theory, Politics, Global Warming & Carbon Taxes

The rush to try and pass the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in Australia a few years ago revealed some interesting arguments in relation to global warming and exposed many of the political forces that exist in Australia and no doubt in the rest of the world. All the arguments were coloured by personal and often illogical views and highly polarised from denial to doomsday. What mattered and what didn't was of less importance than political point scoring. Confusion reigned about cause and effect and rhetoric and false argument abounded. In matters of science there is no room for quasi religious belief lead argument. Surely it is time a little common sense prevailed!

Game Theory

Its all about decisions and consequences. Our leaders need to be logical in the decisions they make in relation to global warming and analyse the situation without colour from religion, social justice, politics or anything else. They, like game players are presented with choices and consequences need to make rational decisions as scientists are supposed to as part of their training and method

Game theory is by no means new and insights into what was first enunciated by John Von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern in 1944 are to be found in the writings of Plato and Shakespeare and Actions of Cortez (burning his ships in sight of the Aztecs in South America.)[1].

Thinking about global warming using simple game theory analysis makes it much simpler to understand what we should and should not do in relation to the problem.

Add to the game solution matrix below the fact that reducing atmospheric CO2 is profitable using TecEco cement and Syncarb, Carbonsafe and Gaiaengineering technologies then there are no downsides and their decisions become much easier.


How TecEco Technology Changes a Simple Game Theory Solution


The Prisoners Dilemma and Global Warming Politics

The Prisoner's Dilemma is also important in decision theory and applies to our response to the threat of global warming.

Two prisoners given the option to confess or not confess their crime, will always both confess, despite the Pareto Efficient outcome of both not confessing. This is because their dominant strategy is to confess as it will always provide them with a greater payoff.

An excellent analysis of the dilemma in relation to global warming and the Kyoto process that is facing the world is available from the Wharton School of Economics[2].

If I am right the dilemma goes away if there are no negative consequences of taking action just as it does in the simple analysis I have written above.

The science tells us yes.

Global Warming

In 1859 John Tyndall showed that certain gases, including carbon dioxide block infra red radiation and subsequent confirming tests show this to be true. Given this fact in 1896 Savante Arrhenius predicted a general warming trend and we have observed this.

The problem is that the science is not that simple and although global warming is happening as a result of increasing CO2 & methane levels in the atmosphere there are also cooling influences at work such as Milankovitch Cycles and precession back to another ice age. This is because the earth is a complex homeostatic system with some factors act to cool the planet and others to warm it. Unfortunately politicians and the media tend to confuse the causes and effects.

All the following factors and possibly more must be taken into account.

Phenomenon Aspect Cycle Time Permanency Comment
Milankovitch Cycles Eccentricity 23,000 years At least the last few million years There are other cycles.
  Axial Tilt (22.1 - 24.5 deg.) 41,000 years At least the last few million years Affect long term climate and are the cause of glacial cycles.
  Precession 26,000 years At least the last few million years  
Cosmic Ray Incidence     Forever or at least since the "big bang " Affect on climate suggested but not really understood.
Global Warming Gases Carbon Dioxide Until we run out of fossil fuels 100 + years

Carbon dioxide is a known greenhouse gas and large quantities are released to the atmosphere every year as a result of burning fossil fuels

  Methane   8-9 years The sudden release of methane from methane clathrates would result in sudden and disastrous climate change. The release of methane from methane clathrates could be the cause of dramatic climate change around 251 million years ago when much of life on earth at the time was extinguished.
  Other Global Warming Gases     Many other gases cause global warming such as nitrous oxide.
Cooling Aerosols Sulfur dioxide Relatively short periods   Sulfurous aerosols are produced when fossil fuels are burned and partly counteract the warming induced by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide
Solar Radiation Amount of Energy Reaching earth 11 years   Some argue that solar radiation, which is in a cyclic low at the moment, is why the earth is not heating so much. Sunspot activity which increases with solar activity has a cycle of about eleven years.
Thermal capacity The thermal capacity of large ice sheets, frozen bogs as in the Tundra etc     There is an immense thermal capacity in ice and in particular the frozen muds of the Tundra. Some argue that what is keeping the climate from warming up at the moment is that the energy is going into melting ice and Tundra.
Albedo The reflectivity of the earths surface     The albedo or reflectivity of the earths surface varies with colour and texture. Dark oceans for example absorb more energy than ice. The loss of ice with a high reflectivity or albedo increases heat absorption causing more ice to melt.
Ocean Currents       Ocean currents depend on temperature, the shape of the oceans and the earth, salt content and other factors and have a big influence on climate.
Continental Drift       The formation of topography affects climate and oceans currents
Volcanic Activity       Generation of topography affects climate. Releases of gases and particulates to the atmosphere effect climate as well.
Land Use Clearing       Vegetation affects climate.
Wood fires and Smoke       CO2 and smoke affect global warming
Dust       Anthropogenic and natural dust tend to block out the sun and reduce temperatures.

The only safe and sensible position to take given all of the above influences on climate is to not mess with nature, not to create change and do something about reducing the amount of CO2 and methane we are putting into the atmosphere. By not messing with nature I mean it would be very silly to change anything, especially if we do not understand all the consequences even if we have an inkling that they may be disastrous. Isn't this what we all should have learned when we were kids?

Increasing atmospheric CO2is causing rising temperatures that will trigger methane releases. Continuing to increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere will ultimately have consequences.

The probability of the science being wrong and CO2 not having a global warming affect is very low and for our leaders we will refer to it as the false option. They then have the choice of taking action to do something about it or not taking action. The truth or otherwise about whether CO2 is causing global warming has consequences as does the actions that can be taken to reduce those consequences and it is the job of our leaders to ponder these choices and consequences. If CO2 is adversely affecting global climate and they do not take action unthinkable economic, political, social and environmental catastrophe will occur, yet if false then they think they are going to unnecessarily spend money or levy taxes that will have recessive consequences. Putting it very simply and getting to the "powerful logic" or common sense of the matter, our leaders are faced with two possibilities and two choices. It is a dilemma they find hard to resolve and so they cloud the argument with religious dogmatic belief, false economics or spurious science.

Game theory teaches us that if there were no negative or recessive consequences of taking action the decision for our leaders becomes much easier because regardless to whether CO2 is causing global warming or even whether global warming is actually happening, it becomes the only logical course of action. Our leaders will take action to minimise undesirable consequences even with a low probability that the science is false. The TecEco solution is to recycle CO2 in the atmosphere using Syncarb is profitable and game theory tells us that it is not possible for them to make a wrong decision implementing it because there are no downsides. There is only one common sense approach and that is to adopt the technologies presented on this web site.

Unfortunately many of our political leaders do not know about our solution and perceive downsides to taking action about the increases in CO2 in the atmosphere and they don't seem to have a clue what to do.

I used to think

The whole Kyoto process is not working because there are downside consequences of decisions to act with blunt instruments like taxes. To avoid these our leaders need to try and find a way to minimise these downsides or better still remove them and the world would profit by their decisions. In the pursuit of profit they should think about how we could make money by stopping putting CO2 in the air and getting out the additional amount we have already put there. TecEco have demonstrated that the latter alternative is feasible in Syncarb and this is John Harrison's contribution to the world.

It may be a little unfair to say that just about all politicians in Australia have taken a position on global warming depending on the extent of their lack of understanding of it coloured by their lack of common sense, religious fervor or extent to which they want to use the issue to increase their power. There is sadly however some truth in this. There have been many others who have pointed out the deficiencies of carbon taxes, cap and trade systems and that the Australian Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (the CPRS) is flawed. I also used to think this. See our other political pages

In the following analysis it may help the reader to think of the techno process as the physical interface of the economy[3].

I now think

Unfortunately technical paradigms fall into the realm of what we call the market and politicians in a rather out of date Marshall, Adam Smith, Keynsian sort of way don't think it wise to get involved in markets. TecEco can bring the profit of the future (saving our atmosphere) into the realm of real here and now economics. The problem is that there are significant but not insurmountable supply chain barriers to economies of scale before it can enter here and now markets that consider only present costs and benefits and therein lies the impasse.

Taxes, whatever form they take are unpopular. Legal market forces alone have no leadership and therefore alone won't work. We need a technology plan as well to change the composition of the flow of materials and energy as we must do in order to change the underlying molecular flow and reduce net emissions. A technology plan is entirely missing from the world political stage and the right one is the key to making decisions without negative consequences for our poor leaders. We have the ominous responsibility of holding this key. Taxing emissions will help shift the techno process away from producing CO2. To be effective and last they have to be approved by the people politicians govern. I have some suggestions.

1. People are agonising over what sort of car to buy next time around. The cost of all electric cars is prohibitive. At a lower price are hybrid as they are a lot more efficient than cars than totally rely on petrol. A carbon tax would be more palatable to voters if it was coupled with much higher subsides on electric vehicles & hybrids.

2. People are also stressing about what to do about climate change. They are worried about the future. In our house may wife and I think "Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to."[4].

Our politicians could not do better than to give something for people to look forward to back to them by subsidies for "something to do" much more positive about global warming such as our own Syncarb.

The need for reducing the CO2 in the air is urgent. Economies must substitute away from the burning of fossil fuels or develop technologies to use all the CO2 we produce or both. Learning to use CO2 as a basic input to our technoprocess is the easiest way to solve the problem because it is potentially profitable. Almost all that is living uses CO2 to build with so in the late 90's John Harrison thought we should do the same and set about developing all the required technologies. Now, over 15 years later those technologies have been developed in his mind and are, given any economies of scale, potentially very profitable.

A large number of politicians think that carbon taxes are an impost on their business friends and won't support them. The only sure way to remove this barrier to action is to find profit in implementing technologies and strategies to reduce without consequences and better still profit by reducing emissions and or removing CO2 from the air. Syncarb is potentially very profitable.

Our leaders are restricted by elections to considering only the short term. Profit is a short term concept. A benefit in the future is heavily discounted to present value reducing then eliminating profitability. The long term benefit of saving civilisation by preventing the development of an atmosphere evolving that is not suitable to our existance means little in terms of present value to business. It follows that the only solution that will work in the short term are palatable carbon taxes (see above) and profitably recycling massive amounts of carbon dioxide right now to make make a range of products as in Syncarb that are profitable in real here and now market places.

Game theory indicates that we must do something about global warming. If doing so were profitable then there are no downsides in the sort term decision horizon politicians and businesses understand.

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[1] See "Game Theory" Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at

[2] Clemons, E. K. and H. Schimmelbusch (2007). "The Environmental Prisoners’ Dilemma Or We're All in This Together: Can I Trust You to Figure it Out?" at

[3] See defintion at

[4] Attributed to Rita Mae Brown in "Hiss of Death"