Applications and Frontiers
Edited by Victor Galaz
Chapter 13: Cognitive capacities for global governance in the face of complexity: the case of climate tipping points
Addressing today’s increasingly complex global governance problems requires that decision-makers design appropriate institutional and policy responses to various complex-system characteristics. This requirement brings into focus decision-makers’ cognitive processes: What is their understanding of the dynamics of coupled human-earth systems? (How) Do they learn about complex systems? Can they imagine these systems’ future trajectories, and apply their evolving understanding in specific decision-making contexts in real time? These cognitive processes are essential capacities for effective global governance in the face of complexity. Using the climate change as a case study, and focusing on climate tipping points as an exemplary feature of complexity, I study the presence of three of these cognitive capacities among international negotiators: complex-systems thinking, future-thinking, and application to the current context of the Paris Agreement. I find that these capacities currently exist in a limited fashion, which places constraints on the potential effectiveness of the climate regime. I discuss how these cognitive capacities can be developed and fostered, loosening some of the existing constraints.
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