Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Who are the winners?

In trying to provide an understanding of why getting an agreement on climate change mitigation is proving to be so very difficult, some scholars have presented the "winners and losers" theory. This thought-provoking theory posits that since the effects of climate change are disparate, i.e. some nations will benefit and others will lose from climate change, the winners are unlikely to expend money on climate mitigation action for reasons of corrective justice. [Eric Posner and Cass Sunstein, Climate Change Justice, available here]. Another theory posits that winners are more likely to support beneficial adaptation action, instead of mitigation action, and that climate change policy must therefore focus on investments in adaptation. [J.B. Ruhl, What should we do about climate winners?, available here]. A few have argued that in a global economy, that alleged winners such United States will also lose out in a global economy and must therefore participate in climate change mitigation efforts. [Jody Freeman and Andrew Guzman, Climate change and U.S. Interests, available at 109 Columbia L. Rev. 1531 (2009)].

While Hurricane Sandy has not been explicitly linked to climate change by scientists, it represents the very type of risk that scientists predict will increase with global warming and climate change. The fact that climate change has not occured in some other nation, but in the financial capital of the country (the world, indeed), weakens the claim that winners can be identified with accuracy and render their failure to address corrective justice claim understandable. It also highlights the limits of the theory that winners may be convinced to invest in beneficial adaptation rather than mitigation efforts [J.B. Ruhl has himself highlighted some of these limits and admits his theory serves a limited function]. It confirms the theory that even winners may be losers, because of the interconnected nature of our economy and the problem. More importantly, Huricane Sandy raises the question whether the winners should be allowed to take it all?

To support the above claims, I have listed the winners and losers of Hurricane Sandy and leave it to you to agree or disagree with or modify my preliminary list of winners and losers and how possibly they can be motivated to do to address climate change. Let me add that when it comes to individuals, it is hard to classify them as winners or losers clearly.


1. Sandbag companies                                                                       

2. Construction companies (in the long term)                

3. Construction workers?

4. Hotels in other locations having to charge strander passengers etc.


1. People--citizens, residents, visitors, business owners, employers, employees, etc.

2. Businesses in NYC and other locations--coffee shops, delis, shoe shops, clothing stores, electronic stores, law firms, banks, energy companies, airlines, restaurants, hotels, insurance companies etc.

3. Taxpayers in the form of lost infrastructure, services, tourism, and increased expenses to manage the hurricane and the problems in its aftermath.

Please feel free to suggest changes to the list. 


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