Anthropogenic CO2 emissions must soon approach net zero to stabilize the global mean temperature. Although several international agreements have advocated for coordinated climate actions, their implementation has remained below expectations. One of the main challenges of international cooperation is the different degrees of socio-political acceptance of decarbonization. Here, we interrogate a minimalistic model of the coupled human-natural system representing the impact of such socio-political acceptance on investments in clean energy infrastructure and the path to net-zero emissions. Despite its simplicity, the model can reproduce complex interactions between human and natural systems, and it can disentangle the effects of climate policies from those of socio-political acceptance on the path to net zero. Although perfect coordination remains unlikely, because clean energy investments are limited by myopic economic strategies and policy systems that promote free-riding, more realistic decentralized cooperation with partial efforts from each actor could still lead to significant cuts in emissions.
One Earth, Volume 6, 16 June 2023,