Environmental refugees: What rights? Which duties?

Res Publica 10 (2):135-152 (2004)
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Abstract

It is estimated that there could be 200 million‘environmental refugees’ by the middle of this century. One major environmental cause of population displacement is likely to be global climate change. As the situation is likely to become more pressing, it is vital to consider now the rights of environmental refugees and the duties of the rest of the world. However, this is not an issue that has been addressed in mainstream theories of global justice. This paper considers the potential of two leading liberal theories of international justice to address the particular issues raised by the plight of potential and actual environmental refugees. I argue that neither John Rawls’s ‘Law of Peoples’ approach nor Charles Beitz’s `cosmopolitanism' is capable of providing an adequate account of justice in this context. Beitz’s theory does have some advantages over Rawls’s approach but it fails to take proper account of the attachment that some people have to their own ‘home’

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