Can Dangerous Climate Change Be Avoided?


  • Darrel Moellendorf



Dangerous Climate Change, The Right to Sustainable Development, Pledge and Review, Collective Action Problems


This article discusses obstacles to overcoming dangerous climate change. It employs an account of dangerous climate change that takes climate change and climate change policy as dangerous if it imposes avoidable costs of poverty prolongation. It then examines plausible accounts of the collective action problems that seem to explain the lack of ambition to mitigate. After criticizing the merits of two proposals to overcome these problems, it discusses the pledge and review process. It argues that pledge and review possesses the virtues of encouraging broad participation and of providing a procedural safeguard for the right of sustainable development. However, given the perceptions of the marginal short term costs of mitigation, pledge and review is unlikely, at least initially, to issue in an agreement to make deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Because there is no rival approach that seems likely to better instantiate the two virtues, pledge and review may be the best available policy for mitigation. Moreover, recent economic research suggests that the co-benefits of mitigation may be greater than previously assumed and that the costs of renewable energy may be less than previously calculated. This would radically undermine claims that the short term mitigation costs necessarily render mitigation irrational and produce collective action problems. Given the circumstances, pledge and review might be our best hope to avoid dangerous climate change.