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Study Shows Without the US, International Climate Change Agreement Could be Reached – But It Would Require Major Additional Contributions from Large Developing Countries 

Oleg smirnov cropped internet
Oleg smirnov cropped internet
Oleg Smirnov, PhD

STONY BROOK, NY–September 25, 2019–November 2020 marks the earliest date that the United States can effectively withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. With the United States withdrawing, questions arise about the future global success of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Oleg Smirnov, Associate Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University, addresses these questions in a recently published paper in the  Journal of Theoretical Politics.  He developed a model using game theory to predict the actions of the various countries that have signed onto the Paris Agreement.

Game theory looks at competitive situations where the outcomes depend on the actions of the players of the game. In this case, the players are the countries involved in the Paris Agreement and how their actions with regard to mitigating climate change affect the decisions and actions of other countries. Unlike other research done on this topic, the unique aspect to Smirnov’s research is that actual greenhouse gas emissions data are used instead of hypothetical situations to predict the outcome of the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement.

Smirnov’s paper notes that with the United States withdrawal, expectations fall on the remaining countries to make up the difference left to mitigate the effects of global climate change. However, Smirnov also writes that while developed countries have the greatest resources to combat global climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many have already committed to drastic changes and are unlikely to make more changes because many have reached their cap on what these countries feel is their fair share of contribution.

Because of this conundrum, his game theory analysis shows much of the burden would fall on large developing countries, such as China and India, to take action to reduce their own greenhouse gas emission.

Smirnov concludes that, while technically the world can meet the Paris Agreement targets without the US, “The history of climate negotiations suggests that . . . large developing countries may not be willing to accept an unfair distribution from international climate negotiations.”

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation (grant #0940822).

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Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with over 26,000 students, more than 2,700 faculty members and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S.News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University fuels Long island’s economic growth. Its impact on the Long island economy amounts to $7.38 billion in increased output. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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