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Global Climate Justice

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

In this thoughtful and original book, social scientist Olivier Godard considers the ways in which arguments of justice cling to international efforts to address global climate change. Proposals made by governments, experts and NGOs as well as concepts and arguments born of moral and political philosophy are introduced and critically examined. Godard contributes to this important debate by showing why global climate justice is still controversial, despite it being a key issue of our times.
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Chapter 2: Whither justice?

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

Extract

Thinking of justice implies submitting intuition to the tests of reason. In the wake of Rawls’s ideas, conceptions of justice should stem from the conditions of social cooperation, but this foundation is contested. Moral and political constructs offer different answers, the first considering the rights and duties of abstract equal individuals, while the latter recognize the importance of the process of developing social norms by political communities. The field is structured by basic distinctions between commutative, corrective and distributive justices, but also between procedural and consequentialist approaches, or between local and global justice. In practice, the application of justice norms depends on social values and situations, but also on the availability of information. This dependence is illustrated by the schematic description of the different ways of approaching one same basic distributive situation: sharing a cake between children. In the second section of the chapter, two main theories are presented to underline the scope of the theoretical field and to reveal certain interesting results for the question of climate change: on the one hand, Rawls’s theory delimited by the circumstances of justice and based on an imaginary deliberation under the ‘veil of ignorance’; on the other hand, the type of utilitarianism practiced by economists. The circumstances of justice apply partially to climate change, since the global climate, like natural conditions in general, is not a good, both in the sense of Rawls and in the sense of economists. Although economic theory generally supports the idea that efficiency and equity can be separated, this is not the case for climate change, which results from decentralized production of global conditions having a public good dimension.

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