At What Cost?

A protest in Sydney, Australia
This image gives new meaning to the phrase “a picture says a thousand words”

By: Richard Bourne-Vanneck, II

When considering the different arguments in support of environmental legislation, perhaps the most compelling reason is that the present generation has a moral duty to preserve the earth for future generations. A protest in Sydney, Australia this past week highlighted this sentiment by way of a symbolic message. Expressing their disapproval in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to include climate change on the agenda of this month’s G20 summit,[1] On November 13, 2014, 400 demonstrators at Bondi Beach buried their heads in the sand. The silent message was clear. Prime Minister Abbott, you cannot bury your head in the sand when it comes to addressing climate change.

Prime Minister Abbott was elected on a campaign of maximizing economic growth and a pledge to not address climate change. He recently repelled Australia’s carbon tax on emissions and has taken an aggressive stance against the use and investment in renewable energies. The tragedy of Prime Minister Abbott’s stance is that even if his positions and policies yield short-term economic success, his actions are still morally reprehensible for their effect on future generations. Forcing others to pay one’s costs is stealing. And passing-on the negative externality of greenhouse gas emissions, forces future generations to inherent those costs – essentially stealing from them the opportunity to fully utilize the Earth’s natural resources. So I ask Prime Minister Abbott, “What are the true costs of maximizing short-term economic gain, and are they worth it?”

Richard Bourne-Vanneck, II is a 3L at The Pennsylvania State University–The Dickinson School of Law, and a Senior Editor on the Journal of Law and International Affairs.




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