Climate Change and the Limits of the Possible
The most up-to-date version of this piece can be found in the Duke Law Scholarship
published at, 8 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 289-306 (2008)
Climate change looks to be more than just another environmental problem. It threatens to test the limits of our dominant ways of understanding and solving, not just environmental problems, but problems of political economy generally. Climate change has distinctive temporal and spatial features - how long it takes to unfold and the ways in which its effects are distributed across the globe - which may outstrip the capacity of our basic principles of economic and political decision-making. If so, then understanding the issue in a static way may ensure that we expect to fail in addressing it and are inarticulate about our prospects for success. That is, if we assume that economic and political decisions reflect the present distribution of self-interest within the existing structure of rules and institutions, we may be unable to see our way beyond the problem, because it so neatly frustrates the problem-solving power of our current arrangements. We may need, instead, to adopt a dynamic view of political economy.
Date of Authorship for this Version
political economy, persuasion
Purdy, Jedediah S., "Climate Change and the Limits of the Possible" (2009). Duke Law School Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 149.