Climate Change Justice

By Eric A. Posner; David Weisbach | Go to book overview

A Recapitulation

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 nations and the poor ones.

All around the world, wealthy nations are focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and expressing a willingness to reduce them. In sharp contrast, the developing countries have insisted that the principal duties lie with the developed world and that emissions reductions are a relatively low priority for them. As this book goes to press, newspapers report that officials in China, India, and other developing nations have made just this point. To a large extent, the difference between rich and poor nations reflects perceived self-interest—the constraints of International Paretianism. But much of the debate involves questions of justice. In this book, we have covered a great deal of material in a short space. It may be useful, by way of conclusion, to recapitulate the main lines of our argument.

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will cost some nations far more than others, and benefit some nations far more than others. While projections remain highly uncertain, poor nations are much more vulnerable than wealthy nations, and India and Africa seem to be the most vulnerable of all. It is tempting to think that by virtue of their poverty, poor nations should not have to spend as much on

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