Environmental Injustice – Climate Change
Environmental injustice can be simply defined as, “whenever some individual or group bears disproportionate environmental risk” (Shrader-Frechette, 3). Typically, the issue of environmental injustice in the United States focuses on negative environmental effects that originate from local factories, dump zones, drilling sites and other similar facilities. These sites are often located in areas where there are high levels of poverty and extremely low political voice amongst the people, who are often minority groups. When identifying the groups of people disproportionately harmed by climate change it is necessary to identify whether the scope encompasses one nation or the entire world. Environmental injustice within the United States affects those whose livelihood is dependent on the environment and those that live in high-risk areas and cannot afford to relocate. Since the implications of climate change are felt across the globe, while only a small percentage of countries are responsible, environmental injustice is more relevant on a global scale. The existence of environmental injustice with regards to climate change is not only painfully obvious; it is exponentially disproportionate.
Climate change has been proven to be both, the result of an increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases and a serious environmental risk. Therefore, the extremely lopsided quantity of emissions output from developed and developing nations is the first example of the uneven trend. In evaluating the data collected by David Mackay, it is clear that a handful of developed nations, including the likes of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Russia, are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial period (Mackay, 14). It is an understatement to state that it is unfair that the environmental implications from pollution produced by a few, will be felt across the globe. The issue gets even worse when considering the fact that these developed nations not only benefited while emitting greenhouse gases, they are also better equipped to buffer the environmental risks associated with climate change. While a small temperature change will be noticed in the United States, it will do nothing relative to the effects felt by Bangladesh. Due to regional warming, a trend within climate change, the ice caps in the Himalaya’s are melting and are causing up to 70 percent of Bangladesh to flood each year (Global). The implications of this are catastrophic to the countries ability to develop and maintain a stable economy. The second half of the double-sided sword mentioned is, Bangladesh does not fall under the category of developed nations who contributed to climate change. According to Mackays report, Bangladesh’s GHG emissions are minute in comparison to developed nations. This is a prime example of a country absorbing the brute force of climate change, yet there contribution to the problem is microscopic. Environmental injustice at its finest.
Environmentalists vs. Cornucopians – Climate Change
Given the vast uncertainties that do exist with climate change, environmentalists and cornucopians offer opposing viewpoints once again. While they come in many different types, environmentalists all share a value for the ecosystem. Environmentalists would use the harm from climate change as evidence that human behavior has caused the imbalance. Science plays a huge role in how environmentalists frame their argument. Environmentalists use data collected by objective groups such as the IPCC, which suggests that anthropogenic forces are driving the changes in environmental trends. They would weigh the loss of ecosystems and the extinction of a species as a very serious example of environmental injustice. In general, environmentalists would recognize environmental injustice to a much higher degree than a cornucopian. A cornucopian would look at a harmful event and displace the blame away from human responsibility. Since they are more concerned with economics, they would look internally when it came to studying the implications of climate change. A cornucopian would attempt to quantify the cost of a drought or a natural disaster, and then compare that to the cost of adopting alternative energy sources or other options that would lower green house gas emissions. Cornucopians would argue that the international community is ultra competitive. Therefore, the United States should continue business as usual to remain a top competitor. In consideration of science, cornucopians levy the uncertainty surrounding climate change to disqualify any evidence supporting the environmentalists. They would feel less sympathy for those who feel the worst implications from climate change, and they certainly would not pay nearly as much attention as the environmentalists to the ‘pains’ that the natural environment is undergoing.
Author: Benjamin DeForest
Editor: Apratim Mukherjee