The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences is being shared this year by Elinor Ostrom, a political economist at Indiana University, and Oliver Williamson, an economist at UC Berkeley. The award could not be more appropriate in these times of rethinking what markets can and cannot do.
The award to Ostrom, who has spent her professional life studying how societies manage common resources is particularly relevant as we draw closer to the Copenhagen summit and countries are busy defining what they are willing to do to protect the global atmospheric commons.
In fact, Ostrom wrote a background paper for us earlier this year for the World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change. In it, she took exception to the notion that a solution to global change must be global. Such a solution would take too long, she argued. She also reminded us that a solution negotiated at the global level, if not backed up by a variety of efforts at the national, regional, and local levels, was not guaranteed to work well. This is because climate change is the result of many individual and local decisions.