The Six Brothers Climate Change Analogy

Six brothers all live together in a house. In 1992 they realize that the roof of their house is leaking. They call in all of the experts in town who agree that to fix the roof they need to spend $20,000 right away. If they wait, in twenty years it will get worse and they will need to spend $40,000 to fix it. As well, at that point, they will be starting to feel some of the health effects from the mould. The experts all agree that whatever the brothers do, they will definitely have to fix it before twenty years has passed. If they wait past that, then no matter what they do the damage will continue until all of the brothers have serious health problems, one or two of the brothers will be so sick that they die, and one of the brother’s rooms will be so flooded he will have to move into one of the others brother’s rooms. The brothers call this the Rio conference of experts since they just got back from a vacation in Rio.

They all feel that they have a lot of time ahead of them to do something so they start discussing it amongst themselves. Three of the brothers don’t have jobs or any money, and they point out that the damage to the roof was caused by all the parties the rich three brothers keep having on the roof. The three brothers who have jobs and money could afford to fix it, but it seems like a lot of money, and the poor brothers live in the house too so why shouldn’t they contribute?

The brothers argue in this way for several years, building resentment between them. Finally, in 1997 they come to an agreement. The three rich brothers will open a bank account and start to save up money until 2012 when they will see where they are and come to a new agreement. They call this agreement the Kyoto agreement after their pet dog who they at least can all agree they like.

The years go by and 2012 arrives. They all meet up to discuss it again. When they look at the bank account they find that two of the rich brothers have only put a paltry $3000 each into the account. The other rich brother, Canada, suddenly declares that he no longer believes that the roof is leaking, and that he’s taken $2000 out of the savings account. The poor brothers are aghast. They are all now much further behind. They are just starting to have health effects from the mould and it is now urgent that they pay $40,000, and they only have $4,000 saved up. The rich brothers point out that it’s time for a new agreement and the poor brothers have to start contributing.

The brothers are really not getting along very well now. Canada says he wants no part of it. The other five brothers don’t know what’s wrong with Canada, but what can they do? So they decide to take a vacation in Doha so that they can spend some good time together and really discuss the problem. They know that the problem is really urgent now. If they can’t come to a conclusion their future standard of living will be severely impacted. After much talk they finally come to an agreement. They all agree that in 2015 they will come up with another agreement and will all start to contribute in 2020. This future agreement will be serious though, no more messing around.