Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Global Warming and Disparity in Energy Consumption

"Global Warming and Disparity in Energy Consumption between North and South: The Need for Global Justice Principles to Take Care of the Environment"

(This paper is going to be presented at the UNESCO Conference on Ethics of Energy Technologies in Asia and the Pacific.)

Soraj Hongladarom
Center for Ethics of Science and Technology and Department of Philosophy
Chulalongkorn University

Global warming is a serious phenomenon that is threatening to change the way human beings live in the world forever. Yet effort to combat it has met with lukewarm responses, not least among which is the refusal of the US government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. While scientific experts continue to debate on the exact causes and theories about global warming, we are seeing real changes in the world's climate, ranging from the alarming reduction of the ice cap in the Arctic to changes in weather patterns worldwide. Something really needs to be done.

A key provision of the Kyoto Protocol is that ratifying countries agree to lower their emission of greenhouse gas to below the 1990 levels. A pattern of argument has emerged where the developed North argue that the developing countries should do more to help combat global warming through their reduction in destruction of forests and other natural resources. The South, on the other hand, argue that as the major energy consumer the North should do more in terms of cutting emission.

It is clear that both the North and the South are preserving their interests. Either reducing greenhouse gas emissions or reducing the areas where tropical rain forests are turned to farmland would seem to have an adverse impact on the economies of the North and the South respectively. Here patterns of power are clearly in place. Disparity in energy consumption is a clear symptom of the disparity in power between the rich North and the poor South. In order to begin to combat the divide, a principle of global justice is proposed. After all both North and South inhabit one and same world, and so far as the current technology is feasible for the foreseeable future, this is the only world where humans can live. Hence both North and South have their destinies interlinked.