As an undergraduate Economics teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching the concept of the tragedy of the commons.

This lesson plan will help students to understand the concept of tragedy of the commons, and to identify the “commons” and the “tragedy” in some example problems. In the activity, students will examine climate change as a tragedy of the commons and will discuss possible economic solutions (policy, development) for the problem.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a topic in Economics.

Introduction to Tragedy of Commons

Questions

Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  • 1. Describe the concept of tragedy of the commons.
  • 2. Discuss climate change as a tragedy-of-the-commons problem. Identify the “commons” and the “tragedy”.
  • 3. Explain why “atmospheric sinks for greenhouse gases” can be considered as a “commons”.
  • 4. Discuss different types of governance solutions for climate change as a tragedy of the commons. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each type of solution.

Understanding Tragedy of the Commons using Climate Change

About Lesson Plan

Grade Level Undergraduate
Discipline Economics
Topic(s) in Discipline • Tragedy of the Commons
• The Economics of Climate Change
Climate Topic • Energy, Economics, and Climate
• Policy, Politics, and Environmental Governance
Location Global
Languages English
Access Online , Offline
Approximate Time Required 120 min

Contents

Micro-lecture (video)

(~11 min)

A micro-lecture (video) that introduces the concept of tragedy of the commons and provides examples to explain the terms “tragedy” and “commons”.

https://www.coursera.org/lecture/sustainability/tragedy-of-the-commons-MtxUU

Classroom/ Laboratory activity

(~50 min)

A classroom/laboratory activity to further understand tragedy of the commons through case studies, discuss “Earth’s atmosphere” as a commons and “global warming” as a tragedy, and propose solutions to solve this tragedy-of-the-commons problem.

https://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/programs/implementation/program2/activities/135953.html

Reading (~60 min) A reading that discusses climate changeas a tragedy-of-the-commons problem (atmospheric sinks for greenhouse gases are the commons), provides an overview of current climate change governance, and describes polycentric governance strategies to address global climate change at various levels and scales.

https://www.lincolninst.edu/sites/default/files/pubfiles/climate-change_0.pdf

Step-by-Step User Guide
Questions/Assignments
Learning Outcomes
Additional Resources
Credits

Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.

1.Introduce the topic through a micro-lecture (video)
  • • Play the micro-lecture “Tragedy of the Commons”to introduce the concept of tragedy of the commons.
  • • The micro-lecture (video) “Tragedy of the Commons”, delivered by Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, from the Introduction to Sustainability course by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is available on Coursera at https://www.coursera.org/lecture/sustainability/tragedy-of-the-commons-MtxUU.
  • • Guide a brief discussionamong students to cite other examples of the tragedy of the commons problem,andto identify the “commons” and the “tragedy” in each example.
2. Conduct a classroom/laboratory activity
3. Discuss solutions through a reading
  • •  Read “Climate Change: The Ultimate Tragedy of the Commons” by Jouni Paavola in “Property in Land and Other Resources”, edited by Daniel H. Cole and Elinor Ostrom, Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, pp. 417-433.
  • • The reading “Climate Change: The Ultimate Tragedy of the Commons” is available at https://www.lincolninst.edu/sites/default/files/pubfiles/climate-change_0.pdf.
  • •  This reading describes climate change as a tragedy of the commons problem (atmospheric sinks for greenhouse gases are the commons) and analyzes the current state of climate change governance.It alsodiscussespolycentricity as a governance approach to address global climate change at various levels and scales, providing specific examples ofthe Cities for Climate Change program and the Cement Sustainability Initiative.

 

Use the tools and the concepts learned so far to discuss and determine answers to the following questions:

  • 1. Describe the concept of tragedy of the commons.
  • 2. Discuss climate change as a tragedy-of-the-commons problem. Identify the “commons” and the “tragedy”.
  • 3. Explain why “atmospheric sinks for greenhouse gases” can be considered as a “commons”.
  • 4. Discuss different types of governance solutions for climate change as a tragedy of the commons. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each type of solution.

The tools in this lesson plan will enable students to :

  • • describe tragedy of the commons
  • • provide examples of tragedy-of-the-commons problems
  • • identify the commons and the tragedy in a given tragedy-of-the-commons problem
  • • examine climate change as a tragedy-of-the-commons problem
  • • propose economic solutions (policy, development) for the climate change tragedy-of-the-commons

If you or your students would like to explore the topic further, these additional resources will be useful.

1 Micro-lecture (video) A micro-lecture (video), “Tragedy of the Commons: Solutions”, delivered by Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, from the Introduction to Sustainability course by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on Coursera:

https://www.coursera.org/lecture/sustainability/tragedy-of-the-commons-solutions-wBRcA

1 Micro-lecture, “Tragedy of the Commons” Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, Introduction to Sustainability course by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on Coursera
2 Classroom/Laboratory activity, “Introducing the economic concept of ‘tragedy of the commons’ using global warming” Laura Triplett, Gustavus Adolphus College; available on SERC’s InTeGrate portal
3 Reading, “Climate Change: The Ultimate Tragedy of the Commons” Jouni Paavola in “Property in Land and Other Resources”, edited by Daniel H. Cole and Elinor Ostrom, Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, pp. 417-433; https://www.lincolninst.edu/
4 Additional Resources Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, Introduction to Sustainability course by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on Coursera
5 Images 1. Laura Triplett, Gustavus Adolphus College; Gustavus Adolphus College, Geology

2. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/3458638/posts

3. https://www.freeimages.com/search/cows-grazing

All the teaching tools and images  in our collated list are owned by the corresponding creators/authors/organizations as  listed on their websites. Please view the individual copyright and ownership details for each tool by following the individual links provided. We have selected and analyzed the tools that align with the overall objective of our project and have provided the corresponding links. We do not claim ownership of or responsibility/liability for any of the listed tools.