Imposing sanctions on non-compliant parties to international agreements is advocated as a remedy for international cooperation failure. Nevertheless, sanctions are costly, and rational choice theory predicts their ineffectiveness in improving cooperation. We test sanctions effectiveness experimentally in international collective-risk social dilemmas simulating efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change. We involve individuals from countries where sanctions were shown to be effective (Germany) or ineffective (Russia) in increasing cooperation.
In this article, we show that, while this result still holds nationally, international interaction backed by sanctions is beneficial. Cooperation by low cooperator groups increases relative to national cooperation and converges to the levels of high cooperators. This result holds regardless of revealing other group members' nationality, suggesting that participants' specific attitudes or stereotypes over the other country were irrelevant. Groups interacting under sanctions contribute more to catastrophe prevention than what would maximize expected group payoffs. This behaviour signals a strong propensity for protection against collective risks.