Climate Change Justice

Climate Change Justice

Eric A. Posner
David Weisbach
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Climate Change Justice
    Book Description:

    Climate change and justice are so closely associated that many people take it for granted that a global climate treaty should--indeed, must--directly address both issues together. But, in fact, this would be a serious mistake, one that, by dooming effective international limits on greenhouse gases, would actually make the world's poor and developing nations far worse off. This is the provocative and original argument ofClimate Change Justice. Eric Posner and David Weisbach strongly favor both a climate change agreement and efforts to improve economic justice. But they make a powerful case that the best--and possibly only--way to get an effective climate treaty is to exclude measures designed to redistribute wealth or address historical wrongs against underdeveloped countries.

    In clear language,Climate Change Justiceproposes four basic principles for designing the only kind of climate treaty that will work--a forward-looking agreement that requires every country to make greenhouse--gas reductions but still makes every country better off in its own view. This kind of treaty has the best chance of actually controlling climate change and improving the welfare of people around the world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3440-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Law, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    Climate change ranks among the most serious problems facing the world today. There is now a strong scientific consensus that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have changed, and will continue to change, the world climate, increasing average temperatures more rapidly than has been seen since long before humans existed. The main source of carbon dioxide emissions is the production and consumption of fossil fuels, but there are many other contributing factors associated with industrial activity and agriculture. In addition, land use changes, including the destruction of forests for farmland, have reduced natural sources of...

  5. Chapter 1 Ethically Relevant Facts and Predictions
    (pp. 10-40)

    To study the ethics of climate change, we need to understand how climate change will affect people around the world, now and in the future. That understanding requires knowledge of scientific predictions about the effects of greenhouse gases in various regions of the world and over time, of how people will be affected by these changes, and the extent to which they will adapt. For example, scientific predictions may tell us that a certain region is expected to suffer from a decline in rainfall over the next one hundred years. We need to understand how this change might affect activities...

  6. Chapter 2 Policy Instruments
    (pp. 41-58)

    Many policy instruments are available for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They include emissions taxes, tradable emissions permits (cap and trade), subsidies for emissions reductions, command and control regulations, labeling and information requirements, and subsidies for research and development of low-carbon technologies. In addition, nations will likely adapt to climate change by investing in measures that reduce the harmful effects of climate change. Adaptation measures include building seawalls that limit flooding caused by rising sea levels, moving from threatened areas, developing new plant varieties that survive extreme weather conditions, water conservation, improving responses to diseases that will spread as the climate...

  7. Chapter 3 Symbols, Not Substance
    (pp. 59-72)

    Climate change has attracted an enormous amount of attention around the world and has generated immense activity in the form of legislation, regulation, diplomatic negotiations, international conferences, and meetings, but to date, this activity has yielded very little of substance. Most of the legislation and other forms of government action that have taken place have been largely symbolic. This is particularly true of the government measures taken so far in the United States, most of them at the state and local levels. More significant measures, notably the European Union’s Emission Trading System, have produced far less than advertised, and are...

  8. Chapter 4 Climate Change and Distributive Justice: Climate Change Blinders
    (pp. 73-98)

    Some nations are rich and other nations are poor. Our question in this chapter is whether rich nations have a special obligation to deal with climate change, not because they are principally responsible for the problem, but simply because they are rich. Are rich nations ethically obligated to sign a climate change agreement that is not, strictly speaking, in their self-interest, because doing so would help the poor? Shouldn’t they provide disproportionate help?

    Many claim that rich nations do have such an obligation. Many developing countries, for example, argue that the developed world should bear most of the cost of...

  9. Chapter 5 Punishing the Wrongdoers: A Climate Guilt Clause?
    (pp. 99-118)

    In the last chapter, we imagined an asteroid hurtling toward earth, and asked how the burdens of intercepting and destroying the asteroid should be shared among the nations of the world. Many people would object that the asteroid example is misleading because it lacks a characteristic that is fundamental to the climate change problem. The asteroid is nobody’s fault, it is argued, while climate change is the fault of the rich, industrial nations, which have contributed greenhouse gases to the atmosphere out of proportion to their population or their needs. The United States, for example, has 300 million people, but...

  10. Chapter 6 Equality and the Case against Per Capita Permits
    (pp. 119-143)

    We have noted that many people believe that the problem of climate change should be handled by an international cap-and-trade system. Under this approach, participating nations, and perhaps the entire world, would create a “cap” on greenhouse gas emissions. Nations would be allocated specified emissions rights, which could be traded in return for cash. Though most economists favor a carbon tax, a system of this kind would probably be adequate and appears to be more politically feasible.

    By itself, however, the proposal for a cap-and-trade system does not answer a crucial question: How should emissions rights be allocated? It is...

  11. Chapter 7 Future Generations: The Debate over Discounting
    (pp. 144-168)

    Any analysis of the ethical issues associated with climate change must come to terms with the fact that the benefits of emissions reductions will be enjoyed in the future rather than the present. If the world cuts emissions immediately, the beneficiaries of its action will be people living decades from now, not people living today. By contrast, the costs of emissions reductions will be paid mostly by current generations. How should policymakers and analysts deal with future benefits and present costs? Among economists, the standard answer is that future effects should be “discounted.” A dollar today is worth more than...

  12. Chapter 8 Global Welfare, Global Justice, and Climate Change
    (pp. 169-188)

    We have rejected the claim that climate change policies should be based on corrective justice or on an effort to redistribute from rich to poor. Moreover, the claim that emissions permits should be allocated on a per capita basis, while intuitively attractive, runs into many problems. Such an allocation is not easy to justify from the standpoint of any ethical theory, and efforts to insist on it may well derail a climate treaty, ensuring serious harms to poor people in poor nations. But what are the ethical obligations of wealthy nations?

    We make four claims here. First, the moral worth...

  13. A Recapitulation
    (pp. 189-192)

    For many years, the principal disagreement over climate change has pitted the United States against Europe. To many people, especially in Europe, the United States has seemed to be the major obstacle to an international agreement. The dispute between the United States and Europe is not exactly over; European governments continue to seek more aggressive cuts than the United States does, and to be less insistent on various preconditions for an international treaty. But every year, that disagreement becomes decreasingly central, a kind of sideshow. The emerging division—and for the future, the most important one—is between the wealthy...

  14. Afterword: The Copenhagen Accord
    (pp. 193-198)

    From December 7 through 18, after this book was completed, delegates from 193 nations met in Copenhagen to discuss the next steps toward a climate treaty. Originally, it was thought that the Copenhagen conference would itself produce a climate treaty—a successor to the Kyoto Protocol—but long before the conference met nations made clear that they had not resolved enough of their differences for a treaty to be possible. Indeed, the Copenhagen conference turned out to be acrimonious and disorganized. Last-minute negotiations between the United States, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil produced a document known as the Copenhagen...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 199-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-220)