Cosmopolitan Conceptions of Climate Change
Edited by Paul G. Harris
Chapter 6: Sharing the Burdens of Climate Change: Environmental Justice and Qualified Cosmopolitanism
Michael W. Howard INTRODUCTION Global warming and consequent climate change constitute one of the greatest challenges for our species. Not only are our survival and wellbeing, and those of future generations, in the balance, the problem is a global one that will require unusual global cooperation and agreement on shared principles. In this chapter I will examine several proposals for principles that should govern the sharing of the burdens of climate change. One idea I will examine is that the polluters should pay for the costs of climate change. I will talk about three versions of this polluter pays principle. But, as we will see, the polluter pays principle by itself is inadequate, because it makes no distinction between polluters who are poor and polluters who are rich. The burdens of climate change will fall heavily on the global poor, in at least two ways: first, the consequences of unmitigated climate change – such as rising sea levels, expanding deserts, more intense storms and disrupted food supplies – will affect areas of the planet inhabited by some of the poorest people, and they lack the resources to adapt. Second, reducing the amount of global warming requires reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs, especially carbon dioxide, but also methane and nitrous oxide) just as developing countries need to expand energy use in order to develop, presenting a dilemma between development and climate change mitigation. Justice to the world’s poor obliges the wealthier to reduce GHG emissions at a rate that permits development...
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