The Social and Cultural Aspects of Climate Change Winners
15 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2012 Last revised: 15 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 16, 2013
Written at the invitation of the Minnesota Law Review, this essay responds to J.B. Ruhl's article, "The Political Economy of Climate Change Winners," 97 Minnesota Law Rev (forthcoming January 2013). It argues that the recognition of climate change beneficiaries will have social, political, and legal repercussions that go far beyond climate change policy.
Specifically, drawing on social meaning literature, the essay argues first that the meaning and cultural import of various groups of climate change beneficiaries will be socially constructed and that those social constructions will have political and legal consequences. For example, "lucky" climate change beneficiaries might be subject to greater taxation than "entrepreneurial" climate change beneficiaries. Social meanings for climate change beneficiaries could also lead to the creation of climate change crimes, such as "climate change profiteering."
Second, the essay argues that recognized climate change beneficiaries may resonate with existing social tensions and community fracture lines in socially and politically destabilizing ways. Specifically, it asks: What happens if the "wrong" people benefit from climate change?
The essay ends by suggesting that our legal and political considerations of climate change "winners" thus needs to be far broader than simply climate change policy. It offers some specific considerations as food for thought, perhaps constructing a bridge from climate change as an environmental issue to climate change as a much broader social and legal issue.
Keywords: climate change adaptation, climate change winners, social meaning, social construction, climate change crimes, climate change profiteering
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