On Climate Change and Cyber Attacks: Leveraging Polycentric Governance to Mitigate Global Collective Action Problems

Scott J. Shackelford · 18 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 4


Although cyberspace and the atmosphere are distinct arenas, they share similar problems of overuse, difficulties of enforcement, and challenges of collective inaction and free riders. With weather patterns changing, global sea levels rising, and temperatures set to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, climate change is a problem that affects the entire world. Yet its benefits are dispersed, and its harms are often concentrated. Similarly, much of the cost of cyber attacks is focused in a few nations even as others are becoming havens for cyber criminals. Yet it is also true that actions taken by a multiplicity of actors on a small scale can impact both the global climate change problem and the cause of promoting a global culture of cyber security. This Article tracks the evolution of the climate change regime, focusing both on the top-down UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and bottom up bilateral and regional efforts, and then compares and contrasts this history with Internet governance. The potential of polycentric governance to mitigate the twin global collective action problems of climate change and cyber attacks is assessed as policymakers increasingly head toward a polycentric future.