No 'instant gratification' in climate makes for a poor motivator

From the University of British Columbia

Delayed gratification hurts climate change cooperation

Time is a huge impediment when it comes to working together to halt the effects of climate change, new research suggests.

A study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change reveals that groups cooperate less for climate change mitigation when the rewards of cooperation lay in the future, especially if they stretch into future generations.

“People are often self-interested, so when it comes to investing in a cooperative dilemma like climate change, rewards that benefit our offspring – or even our future self – may not motivate us to act,” says Jennifer Jacquet, a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s Environmental Studies Program, who conducted the research while a postdoctoral fellow working with Math Prof. Christoph Hauert at the University of British Columbia.

“Since no one person can affect climate change alone, we designed the first experiment to gauge whether group dynamics would encourage people to cooperate towards a better future.”

Researchers at UBC and two Max Planck Institutes in Germany gave study participants 40 Euros each to invest, as a group of six, towards climate change actions. If participants cooperated to pool together 120 Euros for climate change, returns on their investment, in the form of 45 additional Euros each, were promised one day later, seven weeks later, or were invested in planting oak trees, and thus would lead to climate benefits several decades down the road – but not personally to the participants. Although many individuals invested initially in the long-term investment designed to simulate benefits to future generations, none of the groups achieved the target.

“We learned from this experiment that even groups gravitate towards instant gratification,” says Hauert, an expert in game theory, the study of strategic decision-making.

The authors suggest that international negotiations to mitigate climate change are unlikely to succeed if individual countries’ short-term gains are not taken into consideration.

 

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44 thoughts on “No 'instant gratification' in climate makes for a poor motivator

  1. Jeez. Whatever will they discover next? Bears defecating in the woods? Shocking confession from Benedict – ‘I am a Catholic’? Mann’s work ‘a crock of shit’?
    For supposedly clever people, academics seem to have a huge capacity for wasting their time – and our money – on ‘rediscovering’ simple stuff about human nature. Next week I plan a treatise on ‘Rearranging my Sock Drawer with especial reference to Putting the Warmer Ones to the Front’.
    Seems to me that ‘the devil makes work for idle brains’ is one of the better observations from the bible.

  2. there being little to nothing at all we can do about an ongoing natural process we don’t understand could be part of the problem too.
    just sayin’…

  3. Have these dumb fraudsters ever thought that it is the variations of climate that control the climate, and has nothing to do with people. I see there is a new peer reviewed consensus floating around that 97% of so called climate scientists and their supporters are dumb, fraudulent, or both.

  4. Our grandchuildren will never forgive us…
    Just like we resent our grandparents for concentrating on WW2 instead of the Millenium Bug.

  5. “No ‘instant gratification’ in climate makes for a poor motivator”

    Oh, is that their problem?
    I thought it was more along the lines of:

    “No ‘instant punishment” in climate makes for a poor motivator for the grandchildren yet to be…”

  6. “Researchers … gave study participants 40 Euros each to invest, as a group of six, towards climate change actions. If participants cooperated to pool together 120 Euros for climate change, returns on their investment, in the form of 45 additional Euros each, were promised one day later, seven weeks later, or were invested in planting oak trees, and thus would lead to climate benefits several decades down the road – but not personally to the participants.”
    “none of the groups achieved the target.”
    If you were given 40 Euros to spend on slaying a mythical dragon, how would you spend it? What is the likelihood that you would cooperate with someone else on such a project? To get the 120 Euro pool, they needed only three of the six in each group. They could not, apparently, manage to get more than two in any group of six to cooperate!
    Think! You get 40 Euros to spend on a project you don’t believe in, and if three of six agree on a project 135 more Euros will be added to the project you have managed to agree on. Why am I not surprised that “none of the groups achieved the target”? What the report did not say was what happened to the 40 Euros if you did not agree with any of the others. This appears to be a study either badly reported or else badly designed. Perhaps designed following a preliminary study from the Australian National University School of Inconsequential Studies.

  7. Perhaps the bigger the group, the more likely it is to contain a sceptic who could point out for them the irrelevance of their actions. Given a choice on whether to waste $40 on preventing something that wasn’t happening, or going down the pub, I know which I’d rather do.

  8. The study is flawed; it does not accurately model the war on climate and the related green scam madness. It does not accurately model the amount of money that is been requested to be spent on green scams and misses important nuances concerning the issues.
    The developed countries have spent (wasted) two trillion dollars on green scams which have made almost no difference in CO2 emissions in the countries where the scams have been installed and have made absolutely no difference in world CO2 emissions.
    The study should have asked people if they would support a government program that would force them to sell their home and give the funds to a middle man (massive new government bureaucracy), who will in turn send a portion of the money raised to corrupt third world countries to ‘fight’ climate ‘change’. The remaining funds after middle man skimming will be spent on green scams in their own country. The people for this case need to be informed that green scams do not work. If the increase in atmospheric CO2 was a problem which it is not, the solution would be a massive investment in nuclear power plants and draconian changes in society such as the banning of all tourist air travel, the banning of private homes, and forced population reduction which is the only possible solution to reduce world CO2 emissions by let say 50%.
    The study should have also included a case where in addition to being forced to sell their home to spend on green scams that do not work, the people need to be informed that the science concerning climate science is incorrect – rigged perhaps is a better term – there is no extreme AGW problem to solve. The increase in atmospheric CO2 is on the whole beneficial to the biosphere and to humanity. Would they support a government program that forces them to sell their home to spend on green scams that do not work, to address climate ‘change’ which is not a problem to reduce atmospheric CO2 which is on the whole beneficial?
    Lastly the study should have included a case where in addition to being forced to sell their house to give to a new government bureaucracy to waste on green scams, the people are informed that the planet will cool.

  9. “Time is a huge impediment when it comes to working together to halt the effects of climate change, new research suggests.”
    Wake me up when we can stop the glaciations, will ya? Heck! I’d settle for being able to control tomorrow’s weather, but I hear we’re not quite there yet.
    They should have tested to see how many in each group wanted to pool their money to buy a unicorn.

  10. Isn’t instant gratification the mo of folks like Gore? He is taking lots of cash now to save the earth in 100 years. Same can be said for the warmists at the public money (grant) trough.

  11. H.R.Says@2.33am,
    ‘they should have tested to see how many in each group wanted to pool their money to buy a unicorn’.
    Much better to hire St. George – great dragon slayer!

  12. Messrs Alder and Courtney summed it up pretty well.
    My only other comment is that they assume that everyone agrees about what the future will be like. If you polled a representative sample about what they thought the future would be like on any topic (the economy, the state of society, the climate, the fortunes of a particular sports team) you would not get agreement. If you polled them on what should be done about it, if anything, they wouldn’t agree on that either.
    Academics are often really dumb about common sense, and seem to get an endless supply of public money to demonstrate it over and over again.

  13. Bog standard game theory stuff. I’d like to cry about the internet patent feel of “But now with climate,” yet folks tend to be pretty bad about applying abstractions to new places. So kudos to the folks that are trying to teach Model Mavens the basics of economics and incentives.

  14. M Courtney says:
    October 22, 2013 at 12:07 am
    “Our grandchuildren will never forgive us…
    Just like we resent our grandparents for concentrating on WW2 instead of the Millenium Bug.”
    Your mileage as a Brit will SURELY vary; but I personally DO resent that generation for MAKING WW2.

  15. The Climate Alarmists have developed their rhetoric and rationalizations to a Fine Art, able to concoct persuasive (although not necessarily correct) answers to every question the masses may ask save one: “What’s in it for me?”

  16. Researchers at UBC and two Max Planck Institutes in Germany
    Huh? Last I checked there was no such place called “Germany” in Adam Smith’s time.
    Wait, you mean they JUST did this? As in recently? They are trying to peer review Adam Smith 250 years after the fact? Will wonders never cease.
    I guess they do not have a school of economics at the UBC or Max Planck Institute.

  17. DirkH says:
    October 22, 2013 at 3:52 am
    Ah, sorry. Fair point.
    Please accept that I meant no offense in raising historical unpleasantness.
    My wit is blunted by my small-minded parochialism.

  18. “Definition of AGITPROP: propaganda; especially: political propaganda promulgated chiefly in literature, drama, music, or art” Merriam-Webster Paid agitprop. What a gig.
    That Eisenhower warning is increasingly important:
    “In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
    • and is gravely to be regarded.
    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.”
    Except the two dangers of domination of the scholars and domination of public policy aren’t exactly opposite. The real danger is that they corrupt each other and we accept it as cooperation.

  19. Another study on how to con us better….
    ….while ignoring the fact they have been wrong about everything

  20. There’s a flaw in the experiment. The researchers provided the investment cash rather than requiring participants to use their own money as would be the case in the real world. Without demonstrating that this make no differences, extrapolation of results is invalid. All this experiment says is that in an artificial game, this particular group of subjects behaved in a particular way.

  21. This authors of this experiment, as have many other similar studies, articles and books recently, arrogantly take for granted that AGW is of the ‘giant meteor is going to hit Earth at 13:23 hours GMT, May 3rd, 2072, with 100% certainty’ calibre, and then proceed to wonder why people can be so selfish as to not want to sacrifice anything to solve it.
    Had the experiment used the meteor problem on a control group of subjects, the study would have revealed that a) people are not selfish, particularly not when it comes to their children and grandchildren, and b) people do not consider AGW to be a problem worth sacrifice.

  22. Gary said: “There’s a flaw in the experiment. The researchers provided the investment cash rather than requiring participants to use their own money as would be the case in the real world. ”
    A great point. Perhaps all they’ve demonstrated is that people (politicians) spending our money will spend it to suit themselves on a short timescale. This may explain the mania for wind turbines by the bucketful today for politicians to grandstand over when a gradual adaptation is less damaging to economies in terms of cost and the direction of resources.

  23. Nobel Prize winner in Medicine Sir Peter Medawar:
    “the spread of secondary and tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.”

  24. DirkH says:
    October 22, 2013 at 3:52 am
    M Courtney says:
    October 22, 2013 at 12:07 am
    “Our grandchuildren will never forgive us…
    Just like we resent our grandparents for concentrating on WW2 instead of the Millenium Bug.”
    Your mileage as a Brit will SURELY vary; but I personally DO resent that generation for MAKING WW2.
    Here in UK we can now access PBS on our TV. They are currently running (at least over here) a series on WW2. If you know little of the history of what led up to that war, what happened during it , what could well have happened on both sides of the Atlantic had we not concentrated on WW2 and its aftermath you would do well to watch some or all of those episodes.

  25. It appears that these scientists have just confirmed the Climate Change truths that P. J. O’Rourke espoused in his book: “Don’t Vote. It Just Encourages The Bastards”. Chapter on climate change as follows:
    CLIMATE CHANGE
    There’s not a thing you can do about it. Maybe climate change is a threat, and maybe climate change has been tarted up by climatologists trolling for research grant cash. It doesn’t matter. There are 1.3 billion people in China, and they all want a Buick. Actually, if you go more than a mile of two outside China’s big cities, the wants are more basic. People want a hot plate and a piece of methane-emitting cow to cook on it. They want a carbon-belching moped, and some CO2-disgorging heat in their houses in the winter. And air-conditioning wouldn’t be considered an imposition, if you’ve ever been to China in the summer.
    Now, I want you to dress yourself in sturdy clothing and arm yourself however you like – a stiff shot of gin would be my recommendation – and I want you to go tell 1.3 billion Chinese they can never have a Buick.
    Then, assuming the Sierra Club helicopter has rescued you in time, I want you to go tell a billion people in India the same thing.
    The End.

  26. So some people were given some free money, then asked to choose between receiving even more money the next day or being allowed to plant a few trees… and this is supposed to be a scientific experiment?

  27. M Courtney says:
    October 22, 2013 at 12:07 am
    Our grandchuildren will never forgive us…
    Just like we resent our grandparents for concentrating on WW2 instead of the Millenium Bug.

    Well, to be fair, both of the aforementioned events actually were problems.
    I know, it can be argued that the reaction to CAGW by CO2 is an actual problem too.

  28. @Taphonomic –
    How like der Fuehrer, in the midst of his $100 million African personal vacation on the taxpayer nickel, telling people in Soweto (who cook their food with shit) that they shouldn’t aspire to drive an SUV.

  29. Delayed “gratification” – Let’s pour lots of iron filings into the ocean and spray stuff into the atmosphere. This is to “correct” the energy imbalance. The end of the interglacial is expedited. In this case the “gratifying” act would be an act of mass genocide.

  30. What if we act and it doesn’t make any difference? I think our descendants will be better equipped to help themselves just as we today are better able to cope with environmental changes than those living in 1850, 1900 or 1955. Our descendants will laugh at us most heartily for a millenia or more. 🙂 What a crock.

  31. Just like we resent our grandparents for concentrating on WW2 instead of the Millenium Bug.
    Well, we would have been better off had our German and Japanese ancestor pursued other objectives.

  32. “Time is a huge impediment when it comes to working together to halt the effects of climate change, new research suggests.”
    “Unimaginative press release headline points to unimaginative research result, one’s eyes suggest”

  33. We need to work as a collective as long as you agree with my side of the argument! Don’t question me, I have all the right answers. it is you who are wrong!

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