Saving the House

Top-down governance approaches have been useful in addressing climate change, showing the willingness of some of the historical greenhouse-gas emitters to accept remedial responsibility. But the most recent climate-change summits have revealed the limits of this approach.

MADRID – A crack in a house’s foundation, if not repaired, can continue to grow, ultimately destabilizing the structure and rendering it uninhabitable. Its occupants must then move to another home. But the world’s population cannot move somewhere else. Houses, while not cheap, are replaceable; our planet is not.

Climate change, as we have known for years, is one such crack in the foundation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been studying the phenomenon since 1988. Twenty-two years ago, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was unveiled; today, 195 countries have agreed to prevent dangerous global warming by limiting the increase in global temperature to 2⁰C.

Yet we continue along our perilous path. The IPCC has calculated that we are hurtling toward temperature rises of 3.7⁰C to 4.8⁰C by the end of the century. The crack is widening, and some of the world’s inhabitants – particularly the most vulnerable – are already seeing the water seep in. Who is responsible, and who should pay to stop the warming?

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