Whose danger, which climate? Mesopotamian versus liberal accounts of climate justice

Michael Northcott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Dangerous climate change was first defined as globally averaged warming of two degrees above the pre-industrial average by an economist, not a natural scientist. A global average of 2 degrees equates to significantly more warming in some earth regions. GCMs indicate that North Africa will experience disproportionate warming from globally averaged anthropic climate change. Food and energy price rises sparked by raised temperatures and drought in North Africa, combined with increased pumping of ground water, are implicated in the rise of civil conflict, revolution and war in North Africa since 2009. Indo-European discourses and practices of justice first appear in association with the development of agriculture and irrigation systems in this region. Agriculture made possible more densely populated societies. These societies were also characterised by more complex social and kinship organisation and growing inequality in access to natural resources. Antique legal, moral and religious conceptions of government and justice evolved in association with these developments. Modern cosmopolitan theories of justice as procedural, and grounded in political rights and freedoms, miss the ecological and cultural interconnections of the practices of justice with land and water allocation in agricultural societies. This also helps to explain why a ‘just’ climate for an American economist may be a dangerous climate for a Malian subsistence farmer.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinking Ecology and Ethics for a Changing World
EditorsR Rozzi, S T A Pickett
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9789400774704
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Global change
  • sustainability
  • Environmental ethics
  • Environmental Values


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