Climate Climax: Post-Copenhagen Reflections on 'The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time'

28 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2009 Last revised: 30 Dec 2009

Date Written: December 27, 2009


The 15TH.Conference of Parties (COP 15) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Copenhagen December 7-18, 2009 has ended with an abortive face-saver. A goal of reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050, present in earlier drafts, was removed. All references to keeping temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius - a key demand of vulnerable African and small island states - were also dropped. The smaller nations objected to the process that produced the accord, in which the United States along with China, India, Brazil, and South Africa negotiated with 20 other nations. Cuban delegates said that the United States President were "behaving like an emperor" and claimed that the draft was a "gross violation of the principle of sovereign equality." The most crucial has been the denial of climate justice in Copenhagen Accord. The rich world has been responsible for 70 per cent of the warming gases in the atmosphere - yet 70 per cent of the effects are being felt in the developing world. There is a cruel inverse relationship between cause and effect: the polluters need not pay. Anthropogenic climate change leads to biophysical transformation on the global scale engendering localised stresses in the forms of coastal erosion, ice melt, infertile land and deteriorating water sources.These stresses threaten critical minimum basic needs of vulnerable socities without the capabilities of adaption and resilence. Northern knowledge-power had set the norms to reinforce dominance over the international system that can not reflect on the environment in a broader political and cultural context of a region or a country. The industrialised North has emitted massive greenhouse gases, with increasing energy- and chemical-intensive production since the "outbreak" of cold war, and has polluted the environment to a catastrophic extent that is largely irreversible.The zero-sum game has its obvious toll on wretched teeming millions of "other" world as the "development of underdevelopment" diversifies with deadlier dimensions. The victimised populations become uprooted from their habitats and forced to migrate, even to foreign countries to join the researve army of lobour there and get entrapped in new conflicts and crises. The citizens of a bordered territory are entitled to fundamental rights which their fellow human beings, the irregular migrants, can never be provided. As with capabilities approach by Sen and Nussbaum, if outcome of climate degradation potentially undermine fundamental rights and human security, enshrined as global norms, policy as well as national policies of the industrialised countries, the concerns about justice should be the prime mover of global climate governance. Ultimately, a successful adaptation process has to reflect on how the command of natural resources and environmental goods has forged the plunder of climate and human habitats by the interplay of a host of historical, ecological, social and economic factors. An internationally agreed measure of ecological debt would clarify "over-polluting" countries' contribution towards climate change-enforced human vulnerabilities.

Keywords: Critical Climatics, COP15-UNFCCC, Development of Underdevelopment, Human Security

JEL Classification: Z00

Suggested Citation

Mukhopadhyay, Arun G., Climate Climax: Post-Copenhagen Reflections on 'The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time' (December 27, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Arun G. Mukhopadhyay (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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