27 September 2021   1 comment

The Washington Post has published an article published in Science magazine which raises a deeply troubling issue of what is terms the “intergenerational inequality” of climate change. Unfortunately, the article resides behind a paywall so I can only comment on the interpretation offered by the Post. But the underlying logic of the argument is persuasive. According to the article:

“If the planet continues to warm on its current trajectory, the average 6-year-old will live through roughly three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents, the study finds. They will see twice as many wildfires, 1.7 times as many tropical cyclones, 3.4 times more river floods, 2.5 times more crop failures and 2.3 times as many droughts as someone born in 1960….

“Unless world leaders agree on more ambitious policies when they meet for the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, this fall, the study says, today’s children will be exposed to an average of five times more disasters than if they lived 150 years ago.”

Further, the children who live in tropical and subtropical climates will suffer more and have fewer resources with which to protect themselves. Phys Org notes:

“Behind these global numbers hide important regional variations. Young generations in low-income countries will face by far the strongest increases with a more than fivefold increase in overall lifetime extreme event exposure. While 53 million children born in Europe and Central Asia since 2016 will experience about four times more extreme events under current pledges, 172 million children of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa face an almost sixfold increase in lifetime extreme event exposure, and even 50 times more heatwaves.”

There is an upcoming UN conference on climate change that is scheduled to occur in Scotland in November. The purpose of the conference is to hold states to stricter reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases in line with the 1.5 degree (C) goal of the Paris Agreement. But most analysts believe that efforts to take stronger measures will likely fail:

“Vital United Nations climate talks, billed as one of the last chances to stave off climate breakdown, will not produce the breakthrough needed to fulfil the aspiration of the Paris agreement, key players in the talks have conceded.

“The UN, the UK hosts and other major figures involved in the talks have privately admitted that the original aim of the Cop26 summit will be missed, as the pledges on greenhouse gas emissions cuts from major economies will fall short of the halving of global emissions this decade needed to limit global heating to 1.5C.

“Senior observers of the two-week summit due to take place in Glasgow this November with 30,000 attenders, said campaigners and some countries would be disappointed that the hoped-for outcome will fall short.”

I personally find the issue of intergenerational justice compelling. In a letter to the editor of The Economist, James Dingley of the Francis Hutcheson Institute in Ireland, articulated the premise of liberal thinkers on the balancing of rights and responsibilities:

“The problem lies in our failure to understand properly the original premises of our Enlightenment heritage. The ideals you refer to (“The threat from the illiberal left”, September 4th) are those mostly developed fully by Adam Smith as a moral philosopher (not as an economist). Smith’s mentor and teacher was Francis Hutcheson, whose influence is most clearly seen in Smith’s first book “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. Here, Smith builds on Hutcheson’s arguments against greed and self-interest. The original reasoning in favour of individual freedom and liberty was to enable people to develop their talents both for their own self-worth and for the good of the community.

“Hutcheson was equally scathing on rights, which could quickly become a cover for greed and selfishness. Hence Hutcheson posited that rights must always be balanced against the virtue of an act, or its effect on others. This is an important moral corrective that is continually ignored in our pursuit of narrow individual or identity-group rights.”

Rights are important to create a good society, not to satisfy personal appetites. A society that does not value the lives of its grandchildren can hardly be described as good or even viable.

Posted September 27, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

One response to “27 September 2021

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  1. Amen


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