The different responses to coronavirus and climate change among countries stem from what is known as present-biased preferences. People tend to overvalue immediate costs or benefits while discounting long-term impacts. Climate change and epidemics are both problems of the global commons. Drawing on this, Donald Low and Xun Wu, professors of Public Policy at HKUST and our faculty associates, discuss four effective solutions or lessons which require cooperation and coordination between governments even if such cooperation is difficult because every country has an incentive to free ride on the efforts of others.
First, there is an opportunity for those of us who wish to see more resolute climate action to use the coronavirus crisis to emphasise the causal link between climate change and epidemics. Second, there are many things governments can do to highlight the salience of climate risks. Third, governments can take steps to counter our present bias. With the coronavirus, the benefits of governments taking aggressive action now are clear for all to see. Finally, the costs of climate change do not have to be fully internalised for countries to take action; they only need to be sufficiently internalised.
Read their opinion piece published on 12 March 2020 on TodayOnline.