Is the arc of history bending towards climate justice? This chapter outlines Boston Abolitionist minister Theodore Parker’s argument about the arc of history bending towards justice, and then reviews the history of climate governance, weighted by two variables: equity and adequacy. Both are required to reach a lasting solution to the problem of climate change. This history raises crucial lessons for efforts to make our field more impactful in the future, so the chapter describes the work of one hybrid group of activist-researchers who have spent over a decade seeking to build workable indicators of climate justice and make them part of the global governance system. The chapter discusses some possible areas for useful research, concluding that researchers could have far more impact if they engaged in joint work with actors in the governance system. Scholarly models of publishable research need rethinking, and university hiring and tenure criteria need rewriting.
David Ciplet, J. Timmons Roberts and Mizan Khan
As currently configured, the United Nations’ greenhouse gas mitigation framework will allow temperature rise above what scientists predict will trigger catastrophic environmental events around the world, which are expected to impact upon vulnerable and poor populations most. This inadequate framework emerged at the negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, which laid the groundwork for future agreements in Durban in 2012 and Paris in 2015. How did we arrive at an entirely inequitable and scientifically inadequate climate regime, and what’s stopping us from changing course? We argue that the global political order has shifted in important ways since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol a dozen years prior. Building upon the scholarship of neo-Gramscian scholar Robert Cox we identify major relevant historical shifts in three main areas: global political economy, geopolitics and ecological conditions. The developments in each of these areas have structured the limits and possibilities for international action on climate change. Any efforts to constructively address the climate crisis will have to contend with the major tensions in each of these areas of world order.