Should Developed Nations Have Followed the Lead of the Scottish Parlaiment & Heeded Adam Smith’s Warning about Merchant Class Scheming.

Because International environmental law-making seeks to achieve a solution to problems at the global scale for problems that can’t be solved at the national level, the drafting process will need to grapple with numerous issues that raise questions of fairness for each of the participating countries. The negotiating process thus usually comes up with key concepts which become the focus of later disputes about how to allocate responsibilities among nations for achieving the goals of the international treaty. The climate treaty-making came up with key concepts to guide allocation responsibilities among nations including “equity” and “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

Under the 1992 climate treaty nations agreed to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system which was later defined under the Paris Agreement to be as close as possible to 1.5 degrees C but no greater than 2.0 degrees C.

Nations also agreed to other principles that would guide their responses to climate change including the “no harm” principle which required nations to respond to climate change in a way that did hot harm other nations. The “no harm” principle is a customary principle of international law which means that it exists without the need to adopt it in law but it has been largely ignored up until now because there was no way under international law to adjudicate damages until now as the international community agreed at the Egyptian COP to create a mechanism to finance loss and damages.

Climate change also has scientific features that are different than other environmental problems which one needs to understand to grasp why developed countries may be responsible for harms in other parts of the world.


This image depicts that as CO2 emissions raise, atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise globally which cause harms globally/

This image depicts that CO2 emissions  in the atmosphere are unusually long lasting with about 80%i remaining in atmosphere for a about a hundred years until they are removed by climate sinks. But a substantial amount last for thousands of years potentially contributing to global climate harms for this time,

The significance of this is that CO2 emissions are potentially contributing to harms worldwide for a long time unless global ghg emissions are emitted at a rate no greater than levels needed prevent global warming limit goals are not exceeded,

In 2009 I was invited by the US state department to give a lecture on climate ethics to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh while they were debating a new climate law..  As i arrived a parliamentarian was already arguing that Scotland should adopt a strong target because climate change may harm other nations. Very shortly thereafter Scotland adopted a zero carbon target and explained its decision on the basis that excessive CO2 emissions potentially harmed he whole world

In 1997 while serving as Program Manager for UN organizations at US EPA during a negotiation at UN headquarters, i was invited by a member of the State Department to manage along with a colleague from the energy department a negotiation that was taking place in the UNCSD was asking nations to agree that climate change was human caused.  By this time elements of the fossil fuel industry were successfully undermining citizens faith that climate change was human caused.   Adam Smith who has been honored for explaining to society the benefits of the free hand of markets also warned that merchants would sometimes ruthlessly scheme against the public interest, At the conclusion of this negotiation in 1997 all about 160 nations that were seated in the UNCSD negotiation. including the Arab countries, agreed that climate change was human caused. This was also the conclusion of most of the most prestigious scientific institutions such as the IPCC and most National Academies of Sciences around the world.

In my three decades of teaching climate ethics around the world, most classes examined the question of how do we know that climate change is human caused.

I have discovered that the evidence of human causation is very strong and very convincing if explained properly.  The above image depicts a layer of ghgs which act like a blanket is found at the upper elevation of the lowest layer of the atmosphere the troposphere which is below the stratosphere.

Because the layer of gases act like a blanket deflecting the incoming radiation, how the radiation is deflected becomes one of 10 fingerprints of human causation of climate change


A very compelling line of evidence of human causation are attribution studies which compare how natural forces which affect the energy coming from the atmosphere to how ghgs affect the energy.  The following image depicts that only when anthropogenic forces are included in the total forcing are observations congruent with what is actually experienced.


  To this day some politicians claim that human induced climate change is a hoax.  Noone should be able to claim that climate change is a hoas


This entry tells the story of Scotland setting a zero national target because they recognized their emissions would harm other countries not to imply that other countries should set a zero target  for this reason but that developed countries should consider that their CO2e emissions may harm other countries by raising atmospheric co2 concentrations.  This fact is also support for developed nations contributing to loss and damages according to the rules of the loss and damages funding mechanism once the criteria are determined later this year.
These ideas are also support for the conclusion that all nations should consider potential harms they create to the world by their policies on climate change.  We mention this because climate policy making must consider ethical issues that arise in policy making, many of which are not spotted by policy makers who are often trained in economic and climate sciences.
Soom. Routledge Press will publish a new Handbook on Applied Climate Ethics which identifies 39 ethical issues that arise in climate policy-making which has been written by 39 authors from 15 countries.  If anyone would like to consider this new Routledge Handbook please indicate in the comment section below and will notify you when the Handbook is available


We also would like all to consider in light of the above, the enormity of the harm of the scheming of the climate change disinformation campaign some of the details of which  have been described By US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in his two recent books Captured and Scheme. We plan to summarize this in a future article on this website soon.






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