“Our current policy dilemma is stark. We have a number of global commons issues that require urgent, coordinated global action. Nuclear arms and nuclear proliferation could lead to an unimaginable holocaust, even if only used on a limited scale. Global warming of alarming proportions seems all but inevitable. Impacts of human activities on biodiversity alarm many. Rising inequality might lead to dangerous political developments even in what we generally assume to be stable democracies. Unresolved issues of justice and respect inherited from European colonialism create deep distrust between the West and the Rest. We do not currently have global village institutions or levels of trust anywhere near a level sufficient to deal efficiently with these problems the way Norway can.
Currently, we are acting as if we’re going to let natural selection deal with these problems. Of course, we all know, or should know, that letting nature take her course regarding contemporary global commons problems is quite risky. At the individual level, reckless optimism and an inability to learn from mistakes are traits exaggerated in psychopaths. In the modern world, they are common in practices of large organizations like nations. Even if you are skeptical about the most extreme scenarios laid out by people who may or may not be mere alarmists, they should give us pause. The future, as always, is highly uncertain. The IPCC’s successive reports on anthropogenic climate change probably represent the best that current science can do in reducing uncertainty about a potentially major global problem. But the IPCC scientists are far from reducing the uncertainty to zero. The climate science community is very worried in part because of the uncertainty. What you can’t predict should be at least as scary as what you can. But policy makers have made essentially no progress. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has resulted in the IPCC process and annual meetings with global representation, so far with alarmingly modest results in reducing carbon dioxide emissions given the risks that climate change poses. We are behaving collectively as reckless optimists ready to let natural selection decide our case.
We attempt to use science to help make rational collective decisions in order to evade natural selection, to evolve new strategies and policies without suffering the death, destruction, and misery that generally accompanies natural selection. The global village would require something like a Global Village Council to make such decisions. We do have such a council in embryonic form in the United Nations, but it lacks the power and legitimacy to trump the often psychopathic European style nation-state, which remains the dominant type of political actor on the world stage. Still, in the work of the UN on all the major global commons problems, we can see the ghostly outline of how a Global Village Council might operate.”