Competitive carbon emission yields the possibility of global self-control

Daniel J. Fenn, Zhenyuan Zhao, Pak Ming Hui, Neil F. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite many international climate meetings such as Copenhagen 2009, it is still unclear how annual global emissions can be reduced without requiring governments to micro-manage the emitting companies within their individual jurisdictions. Here we examine a simple, yet highly non-trivial, computer model of carbon emission which is consistent with recent activity in the European carbon markets. Our simulation results show that the ongoing daily competition to emit CO2 within a population of emitters, can lead to a form of collective self-control over the aggregated emissions. We identify regimes in which such a population spontaneously hits its emissions target with minimal fluctuations. We then focus on the emission dynamics induced by a governing body which chooses to actively manage the capping level. Finally we lay some formal stepping stones toward a complete analytic theory for carbon emissions fluctuations within this model framework - in so doing, we also connect this problem to more familiar theoretical terrain within computer science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Computational Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010


  • Simulation complexity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)
  • Modeling and Simulation


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