Evaluating Evidence and Crafting Argument

October 2012 Topic

Resolved: Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Here is an example of evidence that would be useful for the PRO in topic from October 2012. I will go through the evidence and explain how it could be useful for constructing an argument, presents an idea worth doing more research on, or perhaps points to a possible framework. Commentary will be in red.

First, let’s look to the credibility of the evidence, a general overview of climate change and the effect on developing countries by ONE.  http://www.one.org/c/international/issue/947/

The following is found in the “About Us” section. The tab is located at the right-top corner.

ONE: ONE is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African activists and policy makers.

The important characteristics of ONE presented are that it means to raise public awareness, meaning the publications will be geared towards information. Also, the fact ONE is nonpartisan means there is a better chance of the publications being objective. ONE also presents their focus as “saving lives”, which can cue in a debater to what types of impacts may be presented on the site.

Backed by a movement of more than 3 million ONE members, ONE achieves change through advocacy. We hold world leaders to account for the commitments they’ve made to fight extreme poverty, and we campaign for better development policies, more effective aid and trade reform. We also support greater democracy, accountability and transparency to ensure policies to beat poverty are implemented effectively. ONE is not a grant-making organization and we do not solicit funding from the general public. As we have always said, at ONE, ‘we’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice.’

Two things to notice here. Again, ONE discusses a main goal of fighting poverty – another cue for impacts. Secondly, ONE does not solicit funding. This will hopefully lead to more objectivity in the material if there are no monied-interests shaping the research/publication. 

ARTICLE: “Climate and Development” – ONE, 2013 ( found at left-bottom corner of webpage)

The Challenge

The impact of climate change presents another hurdle to the fight against extreme poverty and disease. Experts predict that in many sub-Saharan African countries, climate change could mean more frequent drought and floods, water scarcity and increased health challenges like under-nutrition. These new challenges will not only make achieving the Millennium Development Goals more difficult, they could also threaten some of the progress already made in fighting extreme poverty and disease.

Here the link between climate change and human life is made (through poverty and disease). This is a great impact for the PRO to argue – it will both connect with the judge and make climate change more tangible.

Further research on the relationship between climate change and poverty, climate change and disease, and the Millennium Development Goals, would fill out the argument and explain the links to human life impacts. 

Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the United Nations Development Program provide the first startling details of the devastating impact climate change could have on African development.

The article goes on to provide this further research from two recognized and credible sources. If you were to cite the following warrants, you should cite the original publication and not this article by ONE.

Projected impacts include the following:

  • Decline in agricultural productivity: The areas suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and the yield potential of food staples are all projected to decline. Some African countries could see agricultural yields decrease by 50% by 2050 and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90% by 2100.
  • Increased water stress: Changing climate patterns will have important implications for water availability in Africa. By 2020, an additional 75-250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.
  • Rising sea levels: Across the globe, sea levels could rise rapidly with accelerated ice sheet disintegration. In Africa, highly productive ecosystems, which form the basis for important economic activities such as tourism and fisheries, are located in coastal zones. In total, 70 million people and 30% of the Africa’s coastal infrastructure could face the risk of coastal flooding by 2080 because of rising sea levels.
  • Risks to human health: Climate change will affect human health through variables such as changes in temperature, exposure to natural disasters, access to food and air quality. Previously malaria-free highland areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi could experience modest incursions of malaria by the 2050s, with conditions for transmission becoming highly suitable by the 2080s. In total, an additional 260-320 million people worldwide could be living in malaria-infested areas by 2080.
  • Threats to ecosystems and biodiversity: Changes induced by climate change are likely to result in species range shifts and changes in tree productivity, adding further stress to forest ecosystems. Studies predict that 25-40% of mammal species such as zebra could become endangered or extinct by 2080.

Each bullet point is a unique impact that could be introduced in a case. It is important to note that all of these are “projected” impacts. You should address the probability that this magnitude of impact will occur. It would also be worthwhile to see what the current scope of these impacts is occurring. If you can illustrate how the impact is occurring now, it makes it more believable that the future impacts will be similar.

The Opportunity

The world is striving towards a global climate deal in 2011. While the web page says published in 2013, this dates the article to at least 2011. Industrialized countries are historically responsible for the bulk of green house gas emissions. This is the first direct link to developed countries. The link to moral obligation and the above mentioned impacts would be that DCs create the climate problems that plague the developing world. However, meaningful reductions in emissions today can only be achieved through an approach that includes emerging markets. In addition, developing regions like sub-Saharan Africa, must be enabled to embark on a low carbon growth path as they continue to grow their economic base and energy supply and demand. Industrialized countries have an obligation to support Africa and other regions in this endeavor. Here, “obligation” is mentioned outright. This point presents a specific way of mitigating climate change – assisting and supporting he developing world in a growth path that decreases or prevents climate change. This could stand as an independent argument.Moreover, it is in their interest to do so as climate change impacts will be felt throughout the world. This broadens the impacts mentioned throughout the article to affecting the developed as well as developing world. This would be important to discuss in your case so that the judge understands preventing poverty does not only impact the developing world, but the developed countries as well, which includes the US. Developing and emerging countries have signaled they would agree to a global climate deal if they are supported. In addition, there are untapped opportunities for partnering with sub-Saharan Africa to stem further declines.  Africa’s vast rainforests and natural resources could be invested in through re-forestation and agro-forestry programs to provide sustainable livelihoods and carbon storage/sequestration.

Responding to climate change requires action on two fronts: firstly “adaptation” to the consequences of current and future climate change and secondly “mitigation” of climate change by drastically reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding future emissions in developing countries and ensure carbon sinks, like the rainforest are preserved. Here “mitigation” occurs again. These three means of mitigation offer arguments to research and find the relevant impacts for. Arguing for specific policies of mitigation will be easier to defend rather than the broad term “mitigation” because the impacts are easier to see, measure, and compare. 

First, under the “polluter pays” principle that is widely recognized in wealthy countries, those who are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses should provide financing to help the poorest and most vulnerable communities adapt to climate change. I am interested that this principle is “widely recognized.” I would further research this principle and if the support is there, this could provide evidence for the existence of a moral obligation. The term adaptation encompasses a broad range of responses that help governments, communities and individuals cope with the impact of climate change. Ultimately, meeting the Millennium Development Goals is the best way for poor countries to adapt to climate change. In the immediate-term, adaptation approaches should focus on climate-proofing physical infrastructure as well as reducing the vulnerability of people through social protection programs. Agricultural investments including weather forecasting, improved irrigation and training are another key component. The incremental risks associated with climate change are pushing up the costs of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. For this reason, the G8 and other developed countries must ensure that resources for adaptation are additional to their long standing development assistance commitments so as not to divert resources from poverty reduction to adaptation. Here is another specific manner of mitigating climate change worth researching and using for an argument. Estimates of costs for adaptation vary, from $35 billion – $100 billion a year.

Second, mitigation initiatives such as the European “cap-and trade” system have already been implemented and should be expanded and adopted by other industrialized countries. The presence of programs is worth researching. If these programs have been found effective, that supports more widespread use. The EU, being developed countries, also provides an example of the unique position of DCs in climate change prevention. Under the EU’s scheme, governments auction emission certificates to emitters e.g. power plants. Germany has already been tapping these extra revenues to support international climate programs. Other high emitting countries should follow suit by using these or other resources to support mitigation in both emerging and developing countries in three ways: Firstly, the G8 and other developed countries should work closely with developing countries and the private sector to chart a low-carbon development pathway through the use of energy efficient technologies and renewable energy resources. Secondly, Africa’s vast rainforests and natural resources should be invested in through re-forestation and agro-forestry programs to provide sustainable livelihoods and carbon storage/sequestration. Thirdly, Africa could eventually provide geothermal and solar thermal energy not only for its own energy supply but for export to help industrialized countries achieve their reduction targets and these resources should be developed. Excellent specific policies DCs can adopt.

To achieve these aims the UNFCCC has called for greater technology transfer to developing countries. The UNFCCC has also called for the establishment of a global Green Fund to allocate $100 billion a year by 2030 to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. This is also another mitigation policy that DCs can adopt. 

This article presents mostly impacts of climate change and policies for mitigation. There are many jumping off points to research these policies and why developed countries should adopt them. You should also look in to proving that these policies mitigate climate change.

Ultimately, the idea of moral obligation is not very developed in this article. There are a few mentions of DCs creating the greatest climate change and the unique position of DCs to assisted developing countries. Why a moral obligation exists to take these actions or play these roles in not explained. This is the central piece of the resolution. Therefore, in any discussion of the arguments and impacts presented in this article, the debater would need to explain the moral obligation that exists in order to access the impacts presented herein. 

However, the idea that DCs cause the problems of climate change which ultimately impact the developing world disproportionately is the beginning of a Framework. If moral obligation is defined as a duty or debt owed, you could explore defining this disproportionate impact as a debt that DCs must repay through some mitigating action, many of which are described above. 


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