Thursday, April 29, 2010

Climate Change and Justice

"Must-read" essay by Mike Hulme about climate change controversies at the RSA Journal website. In particular, his claim that climate change has become an all-explaining metaphor for the future place of humans in nature:

But climate change has come to signify far more than the physical ramifications of human disturbance to the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and its energy balance. Climate change has become as much a social phenomenon as it is a physical one. Arguments about the causes and consequences of climate change – and the solutions to it – have become nothing less than arguments about some of the most intractable social, ethical and political disputes of our era: the endurance of chronic poverty in a world of riches; the nature of the social contract between state and citizen; the cultural authority of scientific knowledge; and the role of technology in delivering social goods. Climate change has become a metaphor for the imagined future of human life and civilisation on Earth.

Here's also what Hulme has to say about how the climate change topic is framed in "lesser developed" countries:
The different meanings that can be attached to the idea of climate change are illustrated well by considering ways in which the issue is framed in India. For many in this country, the key concerns are how to secure financial reparations for environmental damage caused by northern nations through the proxy of climate and how to use climate change to advance the development of the 500 million people living in absolute poverty. This framing of climate change is very different from that which prevails in much western discourse and implies a very different set of international and domestic policy prescriptions. The issue is less about how to reverse a two-degree temperature change, how to save polar bears or how to avoid metaphorical tipping points than it is about how to secure hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in basic human welfare.
The idea of nations using climate change as a means of improving basic human welfare sheds a different kind of light on the social justice aspects of the issue. That Hulme describes India's actions as an attempt to "secure financial reparations" makes the essay especially relevant given next week's concluding topic.

The entire essay is well worth reading.

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