Environmental refugees, corrective justice and a system of compensation

Climate change threatens to create roughly 200 million environmental refugees by 2050. By the author’s definition, these people will lack the goods required to live a minimally good human life and will be forced to cross international borders in search of resettlement and support. Given that climate change is deemed to be anthropogenic, this article responds to this prospective humanitarian crisis by presenting an argument for the compensation of environmental refugees by the nations that are most responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. A principle of corrective justice is employed in combination with a version of the capabilities approach to establish the claim that the world’s developed nations are collectively responsible for the harm done to environmental refugees, and have a corresponding collective obligation to implement a system of compensation that restores environmental refugee’s access to basic capabilities. After considering various objections to this argument, the author explores the nature of compensation due and how such a reparatory scheme might best be delivered.

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