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Parallels between Mutually Assured Destruction and Inaction on Climate Change

Dawn Stover has written an interesting (and colorful) piece for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists comparing the Cold War military doctrine of mutually assured destruction (or MAD) to inaction on climate change, asserting that those world leaders who have not acted adequately to curb greenhouse gas emissions could learn a thing or two from this Cold War posture. MAD is a concept of deterrence which rests on the rational choice assumption that nations with weapons of mass destruction will not use them against each other (or each others allies), because such an action would assure their own destruction as well as that of their enemies. In other words, survival instincts should prevent such a thing from happening. According to Stover, major industrialized nations that fail to act on curbing greenhouse gas emissions (and accept “carbon equity” from industrializing nations) are essentially assuring the eventual destruction of themselves, their enemies, their friends, and everyone else on the planet. As such, they are violating the very basic rational choice principles embedded in MAD.

On a related note, see our piece in the Bulletin comparing the security threats of climate change to those of WMD proliferation and global terrorism.

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