Chicago Journal of International Law


Paul BaerFollow


In Climate Change Justice, Eric A. Posner and David Weisbach argue not only that a climate treaty with significant North-to-South redistribution of wealth is infeasible, but also that to support such a treaty is counterproductive. They ague instead that all countries should support an "optimal" climate treaty, balancing marginal costs and benefits, and that side payments should go to ensure that no countries-even wealthy, high-polluting countries that are externalizing huge costs and risks-are worse off than the status quo. They justify this seeming contradiction to their welfarist moral theory by arguing that North-South redistribution is better handled in a separate foreign aid treaty. But their theory of International Paretanism (IP)-which essentially holds that countries will not join treaties with significant net economic costs-implies that no such foreign aid treaty will be forthcoming. Furthermore, at least one of them has argued elsewhere that it is effectively impossible to estimate climate damages (due to both scientific uncertainty and normative controversy), and thus their "optimal" treaty may itself be infeasible. Finally, they accept the possible need for sanctions on free riders, which suggests that International Paretianism and its assumption that treaties must be "self- enforcing" is not an insuperable constraint. For all of these reasons and more, this Article argues that their case against advocating a redistributive treaty is unconvincing.

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