When I started studying political, economic, and legal philosophy at the University of Graz just for fun, little did I know that climate change would play a prominent role in the curriculum. Now in my fourth semester, I have had the opportunity to examine the urgings and arguments of diverse researchers – philosophers, economists, climate scientists, biologists, legal scholars, etc. – striving to balance the equitable distribution of remaining carbon budgets against other objectives, such as promoting economic advancement in the LDCs, allowing individuals to pursue (some) carbon emitting legitimate interests, or not overburdening those few countries who have already taken significant steps towards reducing emissions levels.
From the deluge of information I have attempted to process, three key theses have crystalized that most researchers seem to hold in common:
- Because of their historical development trajectory, the industrialized nations bear the greatest responsibility in responding to climate change.
- Because of a rapidly closing window of opportunity, currently living people residing in these nations should undertake immediate and significant actions to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate the effects, current and future, of global warming.
- Since at least 1995 a range of stakeholders in the industrialized nations – academics, politicians, NGOs, grass roots political movements, mainstream media, concerned citizens, etc. – have been broadly aware of GHG emission’s direct effect on the climate.
Assuming that the above theses are sound and valid (please leave a comment if you believe I am too bold in my assumptions) we can pose the following postliminary question:
If a broad consensus of actors in industrialized nations knows that considerable and immediate collective action is needed to reduce GHG emissions, and further that the responsibility to take such action lies with currently living people in industrialized nations, why is insufficient progress being made?
Clearly, there are myriad answers to this question and a single, easily correctable, root cause cannot be isolated. I posit, however, that one significant reason for the current inability to translate voiced concern and broad awareness into tangible action lies in accountability allocation. While general responsibility has been defined – the industrialized North – the specific “Who?” remains unclear. Exactly which actors among the currently living in these nations bear responsibility for correcting climate change?
In upcoming posts I will attempt to answer the “Who?” question. Before I start, however, I’m interested in reader opinions. Who do you think bears the greatest responsibility? Leave a comment.