Climate Change: What Do We Owe the Future?

Straits Times (Singapore), 2013

4 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2013

See all articles by Simon Chesterman

Simon Chesterman

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 26, 2013


The bushfires that continue to ravage Victoria and New South Wales this Australia Day have added another nail in the climate change sceptics’ coffin: the temperature on the ground was literally off the charts. Previously capped at 50 degrees centigrade, Australia’s meteorologists recently had to add two new colours — deep purple and pink — to the map reflecting the temperature around the country. At one point, a Tasmania-sized area was deep purple, meaning that it was experiencing temperatures in the range 50-54 degrees. This is consistent with other data indicating the rise in temperatures around the planet. All twelve years of the twenty-first century are among the fourteen warmest years on record. Another way of putting this into perspective is that anyone under the age of 27 has never lived through a month where the global temperature was not above average. There is no longer serious doubt that the planet is warming, and that we are responsible. Even in the United States, the last bastion of climate change denial, the combination of Hurricane Sandy and last year being the hottest ever appears to be having traction. Earlier this month, a draft of the US National Climate Assessment was released. It states clearly that the transformation in our environment is “due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.” The political winds may be changing also. Safely elected, President Obama said more about climate change in his second inaugural address last Monday than he did in the entire 2012 campaign and most of his first term. The rhetoric was consciously calibrated to appeal to Republicans, calling on them to preserve that which was “commanded to our care by God.” Where there is doubt, however, is what we should do about climate change.

Keywords: climate change, intergenerational equity, mitigation, adaptation, environmental law

Suggested Citation

Chesterman, Simon, Climate Change: What Do We Owe the Future? (January 26, 2013). Straits Times (Singapore), 2013, Available at SSRN:

Simon Chesterman (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

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