In the Biblical book of Genesis, chapter 11, verses 1-9, it tells the story of how the people of the earth, in order to “make a name” for themselves and to prevent everyone from scattering over “the face of the whole earth,” decided to build a city and a “tower with its top in the heavens.” This idea of a unified humanity, not taking advantage of the spaces of the entire earth and the resulting natural diversity of civilizations, was against the earlier command of God to their ancestors, and subsequently to them also, to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen1:28). As a result, God decided to “confuse their language” causing the people to scatter with those of their common languages to inhabit the earth.
Whether one agrees about the historicity of this story, its principle is being presented once again in our contemporary society as demonstrated by bioethicist and philosopher Peter Singer, Professor at Princeton University and author of the 2002 book One World: The Ethics of Globalization. Singer states, “how well we come through the era of globalization…will depend on how we respond ethically to the idea that we live in one world. For the rich nations not to take a global ethical viewpoint has long been seriously morally wrong.”
In chapter two, “One Atmosphere,” Singer describes how “we all share the same planet came to our attention” during the scientists’ warning of ozone layer depletion in the 1970s, 80s and 90s which resulted in the banning and phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) use in homes and businesses. He goes on to call the banning of CFCs a “curtain raiser” with the “main event” being climate change or global warming.
Singer describes four “principles of fairness” through which it may be determined how to distribute the responsibility amongst the nations (of which the U.S. is most responsible) for their individual contributions of global warming or climate change as a result of their carbon emissions output. Of these four, Singer favors the second option which he titles “An Equal Share for Everyone” in part because it is “likely to increase global welfare.” In this option he asks, “Why should anyone have a greater claim to part of the global (atmosphere) than any other?” His response to this is that “everyone has the same claim to part of the (atmosphere) as everyone else.” He then looks at the “per capita” emissions levels for each person of the world, then again for each citizen of each nation’s population. By looking at these numbers and comparing them between the various industrial countries and the non-industrial Third World countries he sets the standard for individual world per capita allocation of carbon emissions to about one metric ton per person, based upon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol’s projections for industrial countries by the year 2012 (5% below 1990 emission output). Combine these with the United Nations projected numbers for population growth by the year 2050 and it allows for a measure by which all countries may participate in an “emissions trading” program (i.e. cap and trade). Singer ultimately sees that the authority for this “emissions trading” program will be overseen by a “reformed and strengthened United Nations” invoking “sanctions against countries that do not play their part in global measures for the protection of the environment(.)”
President Obama’s Change We Can Believe In, his 2008 book describing his policy plans for his Administration, includes plans for a “market-based cap-and-trade system” reducing carbon emissions by “80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050,” with a “mandate of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.” Much like Peter Singer, the President’s statements in his book indicates the “power of the marketplace” as the means for performing the carbon emissions reductions. The similarities should be expected in that the President’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, a former Harvard Law Professor, is a well known proponent of Peter Singer’s global ethics, including a desire for the legal rights of animals on par with (and sometimes exceeding) humans, as well as human population control through the eugenic practices of sterilization, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.
In the recent American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), which was passed narrowly in the House of Representatives on June 26, 219 to 212, pages 1365-1385 describe the “International Climate Change Adaptation Program,” whereby the United States will recognize its responsibilities according to “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (policies)… to assist developing country parties that are particularly vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change in meeting costs of adaptation to those adverse effects”(p1366) as well as be “committed to ‘enhanced action on the provision of financial resources and investment to support action on mitigation and adaptation and technology cooperation…'” (p 1337). By meeting these responsibilities the United States will be providing the increased “global welfare” under the authority of the United Nations which Singer desires, and also providing an example for other industrial countries.
What is particularly interesting in the bill, however, is the description of the bureaucratic hierarchy and who is to administer the policies of this program. Although the guidelines appear to be determined by the UN, on page 1371, under section 494, “Distribution of Allowances” (i.e. funds), it states “The Secretary of State, or such other Federal agency head as the President may designate (possibly Cass Sunstein; italics mine)…shall direct the distribution of allowances to carry out the Program.” Those eligible for the distribution of allowances will include “any private or public group…association, or entity engaged in peaceful activities to…provide assistance to the most vulnerable developing countries….” This determination of allocating “allowances” is further designated to the “Administrator of USAID” (United States Agency for International Development), who “Subject to the direction of the President (italics mine)…shall seek to align activities… with broader development, poverty alleviation, or natural resource management objectives and initiatives in the recipient country” (p. 1379).
The Administrator of USAID, shall report annually to the President and “appropriate congressional committees” regarding the status of previous “allowances” and the plans for future “allowances”. This will require the USAID administrator to “establish and implement a system to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of assistance provided” to the determined eligible countries, which the administrator shall do in “consultation with national governments in recipient countries” (p. 1383). Included in this evaluation process will be “participation of local communities” (p.1384) within the recipient countries.
There are two observations regarding the “International Climate Change Adaptation Program”:
One is that the “market-based cap-and-trade” system, which the President makes note of in his book, does not exist in the present bill for by definition a market based system does not rely on a centralized third-party decision maker determining where allocated resources (“allowances”) are to go, but the flow of resources is determined through supply and demand which is decided by the price-determined agreements of buyers and sellers (bidding).
In the system described, a Presidential designee is determining eligibility and prioritizing those eligible countries based on information reported by the national governments of those countries which is also obtained through each country’s “local communities.” Regardless of the intentions of the plan (global welfare), the incentives will actually reverse the outcome of the stated goals as non-industrial countries and their “local communities” will be discouraged from modernizing their economies and thus their peoples standards of living, as the “allowances” of the industrial countries will only shrink over time with the increased carbon emissions of the non-industrial countries. Industrial countries, in efforts to continue their own economies’ growth, will not only neutralize, but encourage the decline of non-industrial countries’ carbon emissions, which, again, will decline non-industrial standards of living. In the end this will increase and not decrease the “disparity of wealth” between the industrial and non-industrial nations, and seeing that the United States is the largest carbon emissions producer, it will, ironically, become the most powerful of the industrial countries and, therefore, most capable of becoming imperialistic. Further, seeing that the President will be the ultimate head of this system, he will be a symbolic, if not real, emperor.
Another aspect, of course, is the level of corruption which will inevitably ensue, even under the auspices of a “reformed and strengthened United Nations.” In an effort to become eligible, non-industrial governments will be willing to at least attempt bribing U.S. officials for preferential treatment for either inclusion on the eligibility list or to be moved up that list. This will only make the bribing governments stronger as they collude with the imperialistic decision-makers. For the United States, it will be to its advantage to accept such bribes, for if it does not, those non-industrials will only provide those bribes to other willing industrial nations, threatening the United States position as other industrial nations are allowed to raise their carbon emissions output.
With this in view, Peter Singer’s ideal of a newly defined “global ethic,” which will provide a social justice and equality for all the world’s citizens, only becomes a newer and expanded version of the smaller nation-state ethic, continuing to exploit the poor nations for the benefit of the rich ones. In fact, this expansion of power on a global scale will actually send the world on a reverse course, historically and economically, to the Medieval days of feudalism, with an imperialistic leader (presumably the President of the United States, but whomever the leader of the strongest industrial nation is) ruling over the industrial country aristocracies and their serfs. Actually, one only need go back to last century, to the days of the former Soviet Union to see a similar centralized government plan implemented.
All Biblical quotes taken from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Grand Rapids: World Publishing, 1989.
Obama, Barack. Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008.
Singer, Peter. One World: The Ethics of Globalization, 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.
U.S. Congress. House. American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. HR 2454. 111th Cong., 1st sess. (provided via http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-2454)