A Global Framework: International Aspects of Climate Change

By Marburger, John | Harvard International Review, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

A Global Framework: International Aspects of Climate Change


Marburger, John, Harvard International Review


While it may seem that science contributes only marginally to international law, it was in fact a scientist, Garrett Hardin, who proposed a framework four decades ago that illuminates most of the international policy issues of climate change. Hardin's widely cited 1968 article, "The Tragedy of the Commons," is much more than a description of the inevitable destruction of public, unregulated, and finite resources, a phenomenon well-known since ancient times. It also offers insights into how one might manage such resources and suggests an ethical approach relevant to the difficult problems of international responses to climate change. Anthropogenic climate change epitomizes the subtitle of Hardin's article: "The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension of morality." This subtitle was inspired by an earlier and equally influential article on the control of nuclear weapons by Jerome Wiesner and Herbert York, who admit the limitations of purely scientific or technical modes of thinking in regards to today's changing world. In other words, the global climate challenge is an intractable international commons issue that requires an international framework through which an economically feasible solution can be created.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The World's Climate Commons Economy

Before discussing viable solutions, it is first important to establish today's current climate crisis, which is mainly focused around the energy resource question. Energy is a necessary ingredient of all activity of every kind and can be regarded as the primary physical basis of an economy. The fundamental and pervasive role of energy in the economy virtually guarantees that societies will exploit the least expensive means of producing it in facilities such as stationary power plants or petroleum refineries. These facilities manufacture energy media, such as electricity, gasoline, or hydrogen that are transportable and easily converted to useful work in an endless variety of devices and processes. For nearly two centuries, fossil fuels have been the cheapest source of energy for large-scale economic activity, and their use is growing at an unprecedented pace. However, various market inefficiencies exist that inhibit the most efficient technologies for these end uses. Depending on the perceived benefit from doing so, governments typically intervene through regulation, taxation, or incentives to drive behavior toward greater end-use efficiency.

In the long run, reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires changing the technologies for energy production and use. Reducing or eliminating the need for fossil-fueled energy could be the means through which this long run consequence could be achieved. It is also possible to increase the capacity of the biosphere to absorb C[O.sub.2] through reforestation and other land-management practices, but this will always be less important than the primary goal of reducing emissions. Because efficient use and C[O.sub.2],-free production of energy are technical matters, it seems logical that the challenge of global climate change should boil down to a question of adjusting the technological basis of the energy economy.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The record of atmospheric chemistry over time hints at the magnitude of this challenge. Atmospheric CO, began to increase significantly as the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum early in the nineteenth century. Coal was the fuel that freed powered machinery from the constraints of wind or water driven mills. Petroleum and natural gas came later, and much of the energy for today's world economy-- about 85 percent--comes from fossil fuels. The scale of the human behaviors contributing to unwanted atmospheric C[O.sub.2] is the scale of the world economy. The technologies in question range from large stationary power sources to widely dispersed end-uses in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and domestic applications. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Global Framework: International Aspects of Climate Change
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.