Wealth, Poverty, and Global Carbon Justice

“One of the most contentious issue that complicated global efforts to address the problem of too much carbon has to do with the fact that it was precisely through carbon-intensive fossil-fueled growth that the global North was able to achieve its advanced levels of wealth and development. And, in so many instances, this wealth and development depended on colonizing nations and peoples around the world, devastating their populations and limiting their ability to replicate the carbon-intensive path pursued by the North. This history, within which the few have consumed and polluted far beyond their fair share, simultaneously leaves the world’s poor and marginalized, those least responsible for climate change, bearing the devastating brunt of its impacts.” – Kate Ervine, Carbon (Polity Press 2018), p6.

Kate Ervine is Associate Professor of International Development Studies and Faculty Associate of the School of the Environment at Saint Mary’s University

Some Questions: Who has a right to the carbon that remains in the global carbon budget? At this late stage of climate disruption, is there anything left in the global carbon budget? Are we already in the red? And, of equal importance, will our proposed solutions to climate change repeat previous injustices vis a vis wealth and poverty? If we treat carbon as a market, as a commodity to be traded, will this not ipso facto build in the same historic injustices? Are nation-states the best agencies to address climate change?

For an informative podcast in which Ervine discusses her book Carbon (50 min.), see the link below. Note that in this podcast she often says “We should do this or we should do that.” In each instance, ask yourself: Who is this ‘we’? If you do this, you will begin to see the real difficulty.

Podcast: Interview with Kate Ervine

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