Today we review a very pertinent analysis of costs and benefits as applied to climate impacts and national (and corporate) interests and how the concentration of short term, local benefits is separated in time and space with longer term impacts. As a concluding sentence in the article reads: “the most problematic dislocations of interests are where benefits are concentrated in time, space, and parties”. Often too, the profits from fossil fuels accrue to corporations in developed countries while the impacts fall mainly on developing countries and governments. Attempts to recover these costs get bogged down in a lack of international mechanisms to deal with them either through the World Trade Organization, World Bank or the International Framework on Climate Change and climate agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 or the Paris Agreement of 2015 – all of which point to the need for a greater definition and recognition of these special needs in addressing climate change.
“although these regions [in developing regions such as Africa, South America, southeast Asia, and the Middle East] are warming disproportionately, their role in causing climate change - measured by cumulative historical CO2 emissions produced - is small compared to the US and Europe, where the relative change in temperatures has been less…where their economies [are] using mostly fossil energy”
“the delay between CO2 emissions and resultant climate warming separates past benefits from present impacts, just as current benefits are dislocated from future impacts”
“those receiving benefits from fossil energy or suffering impacts of climate change may be multinational corporations or national governments, whereas the impacts of climate change may fall most heavily on individual persons or local governments.”
- “Future impacts versus current benefits(Energy consumption)- The countries where future climatic changes are expected to be greatest also tend to be the countries where increases in energy consumption in the present will have the greatest marginal benefit to well-being, and ultimately to resilience to those climate impacts”
- “Future impacts versus current benefits(fossil fuel extraction): Some of the developing countries where future climatic changes are expected to be greatest have substantial capacity to benefit from additional extraction of fossil fuels today”
- “Future impacts versus current benefits(ability to pay)…some of the countries where future climatic changes are expected to be greatest also have the least capacity to tolerate the higher energy prices associated with a carbon tax or other climate policies”
- “Individual impacts versus corporate benefits. In many cases, special interests also benefit from regressive, politically entrenched fossil energy …while litigation against these companies may ultimately succeed in collecting damages and perhaps even hastening the decarbonization of the energy system, the irreversibile, globally-distributed impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems and generations of individuals will never be fully remedied”