19 Jan 2010

Climate Debt

BP asks what I think about "the idea that poor countries are owed a debt or reparations by rich countries due to the climate change that is adversely affecting poor countries, but has been caused primarily by rich countries."

I am broadly in favor of this idea. If someone destroys your property, then they should pay you. If the rich world destroyed the climate to get rich, then they used the "property" of others, and they should pay for it.

The only objections that I see to this logic (and conclusion) is that rich citizens can say "no fair, that's changing the rules -- adding property rights -- after the fact" or "we stole/exploited it fair and square."

I don't think that either holds, especially when you turn the tables (a la Rawls) and put the rich people in the place of victim. It's hardly likely that they would suffer silently.

(In fact, this makes me think of the damage that the poor -- via population growth -- are inflicting on the rich. Perhaps there's a quid-pro-quo, not of mutual payments, but of mutual cessation of behavior, possible here.)

Bottom Line: Everyone owns a bit of this planet, and those who harm it should pay for their damages.