Atmospheric Justice: A Political Theory of Climate Change

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When the policies and activities of one country or generation harm both other nations and later generations, they constitute serious injustices. Recognizing the broad threat posed by anthropogenic climate change, advocates for an international climate policy development process have expressly aimed to mitigate this pressing contemporary environmental threat in a manner that promotes justice. Yet, while making justice a primary objective of global climate policy has been the movement's noblest aspiration, it remains an onerous challenge for policymakers.

Atmospheric Justice is the first single-authored work of political theory that addresses this pressing challenge via the conceptual frameworks of justice, equality, and responsibility. Throughout this incisive study, Steve Vanderheiden points toward ways to achieve environmental justice by exploring how climate change raises issues of both international and intergenerational justice. In addition, he considers how the design of a global climate regime might take these aims into account. Engaging with the principles of renowned political philosopher John Rawls, he expands on them by factoring in the needs of future generations. Vanderheiden also demonstrates how political theory can contribute to reaching a better understanding of the proper human response to climate change. By showing how climate policy offers insights into resolving contemporary controversies within political theory, he illustrates the ways in which applying normative theory to policy allows us to better understand both.

Thoroughly researched and persuasively argued, Atmospheric Justice makes an important step toward providing us with a set of carefully elaborated first principles for achieving environmental justice.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A crucial review concerning the 'fit'of recognised approaches in political theory to emerging discourse relating to what he terms 'atmospheric justice'...provocative and perceptive, and environmental lawyers (increasingly alive to the need to engage with ecological influences within other disciplines) can find there much that within their own discipline is also deserving of fuller reflection and response."—Journal of Environmental Law

"Just as human societies enter the two to three year period in which the definitive decisions will be made about climate change, Vanderheiden has provided a sophisticated model of the underlying issues of justice, appealingly combining a forward-looking allocation of emissions and a backward-looking allocation of adaptation costs."—Henry Shue, Senior Research Fellow at Merton College and Professor of Politics and International Relations, Oxford University

"Vanderheiden has made an original, innovative and important contribution to the growing literature on climate change, environmental policy, and theories of distributive and remedial justice. Atmospheric Justice is a veritable model of how to combine policy analysis with political theory."—Terence Ball, Professor of Political Science, Arizona State University

"Is justice theory equipped to deal with the special challenges that climate change represents? Steve Vanderheiden offers a precise accounting of the liberal's normative resources and develops his own richly textured version of distributive justice, grounded—vitally and unusually—in a persuasive theory of responsibility."—Andrew Dobson, Professor of Politics, Keele University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199733125
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/24/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,213,268
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Vanderheiden is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he specializes in normative political theory and environmental politics.

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Table of Contents

1. The Politics of Climate Change Mitigation
2. Climate Change, Fairness, and Equity
3. Climate Change and International Justice
4. Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice
5. Moral Responsibility and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
6. Knowledge, Beliefs, and Responsibility
7. Equity, Responsibility, and Climate Change Mitigation

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