Julia Driver

This chapter is not concerned with the empirical issue of whether or not global warming is a genuine phenomenon. It is not concerned with the normative issue of whether or not this warming is a bad thing. The evidence that it is occurring is quite compelling, and it also seems fairly clear that on balance the long-term effects will be bad. Thus, this essay will be taking these points for granted. Instead, it will focus on how a particular ethical theory - Utilitarianism - could be used to argue that the U.S. has an obligation to help solve the problem even if other countries are not doing their "fair share.'' This issue came up in the recent past when the U.S. failed to sign onto the Kyoto Accord. I am not endorsing the Kyoto Accord itself, and in fact believe that various shortcomings of the accord have been pointed out by Professor Bodansky, for example, in this volume. However, I do think that one line of argument used to justify the noncompliance of the U.S. is completely wrong. The policy upon which the decision was based made an appeal to fairness - the U.S. would not sign on unless developing nations did as well. However, I will argue that not only does the U.S. have an obligation to reduce emissions even if the developing countries do not agree to be bound by emissions reduction standards, but the U.S. has an even "greater" obligation under these circumstances than if the developing nations had agreed to sign on.1

Perspectives on Climate Change: Science, Economics, Politics, Ethics Advances in the Economics of Environmental Resources, Volume 5, 249-264 Copyright © 2005 by Elsevier Ltd. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 1569-3740/doi:10.1016/S1569-3740(05)05011-X

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