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Global climate change due to increased levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activity has the potential to threaten life on earth. International cooperation is required to effectively address this threat; however the climate crisis represents a classic collective action problem in response to overexploitation of a global commons. This article explains the global climate change issue, traces efforts to confront it, and argues that inherent difficulties plague collective responses to global commons problems. It pinpoints individual reasons for collective action failures, examines background economic and scientific problems, and analyzes how group factors such as strategy and coalition building affect cooperation. Finally, the article overviews how ambiguous international environmental law principles may further hinder global solutions to the climate crisis and suggests a series of best practices for future negotiations.

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GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-87, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-87

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