Tom Athanasiou and Paul Baer.Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming. New York: Seven Stories Books, 2002. Small paperback, 173 pages.
Global warming is a stark reality, even though most educated people from whom one would expect better still behave as if there was no environmental crisis. This book reviews the main facts of the so-called “greenhouse effect,” but focuses on the next practical step, which is to get firm global agreements in place that are effective and fair. The authors are primarily concerned with the latter: that whatever measures are taken (and need to be taken urgently) are inherently just.
As the authors propose, a “second-generation climate treaty based on equal rights to the atmosphere” is needed at this point. This kind of treaty would penalize “atmospheric overusers.” The Kyoto treaty, which has not been met, is no longer adequate to avoid climatic catastrophe. Even if the developed “North” would meet its obligations, which it does not, by 2020 critical mass would anyway be reached because of the developing “South’s” increasing emission of greenhouse gases.
Thus we must at all cost avoid that the South causes the same destructive effect on the environment as the North has done in its cultural evolution. How can this be done without further oppressing or exploiting the South? The poorer countries of the South simply do not have the technology to control greenhouse emissions to a reasonable level. The authors propose that the new treaty should consist in a global per capita climate accord that would limit the emission of greenhouse gases while taking each nation’s historical and social circumstances into account. Each nation would be given “shares,” in the atmosphere, which could then be traded. Since the Northern nations are likely to exceed their allowable limit of greenhouse emission, the penalties levied on them would help develop the South along atmosphere-friendly lines. Everyone would benefit in the end.
There are a huge number of legal and practical issues involved in proceeding with such a global treaty, and the authors have addressed the most important ones as fairly and squarely as can be done at the drawing board.
A good idea? Certainly. A necessary step? Absolutely. But will the nations of the world agree to such a treaty by 2012, which is the cutoff point for making a benign difference? One can only hope.
This book’s basic argument is essential and all important, and the authors’ presentation is to the point and suitably exhortative. While they argue vigorously, the only false note I spotted concerns the authors’ brusque off-the-cuff remark about the remaining climate “skeptics” at the beginning of their book.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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