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Can 'Loss and Damage' Carry the Load?
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (2018)
  • Robert R.M. Verchick, Loyola University New Orleans
Even assuming a heroic rush towards carbon reduction and adaptation, some regions of the world will be hammered hard by climate impacts. Thus, a global consensus now sees the need for a supplemental plan to deal with the kind of harms that cannot be avoided—what Parties call ‘loss and damage’. For a loss-and-damage plan to work, it must be capable of carrying the load, the load being whatever minimal standards that morality and political consensus require. But if residual risk climbs too high, it will fall short of even the most basic expectations. The Paris Agreement calls for holding the rise in global average temperature to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’, while working to limit the increase to 1.5°C. How much difference is in that half-degree? From the point of view of residual risk, quite a lot. According to a 2016 study published by the European Geosciences Union, a jump from 1.5°C to 2°C could produce outsize impacts, particularly in tropical latitudes. That difference could mark the line between a plan that is politically and morally defensible and one that is not. At the very least, the difference is enough to inform the design and expectations of any future plan.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘The Paris Agreement: understanding the physical and social challenges for a warming world of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.
  • 1.5°C warming scenario,
  • adaptation,
  • climate change,
  • disaster risk reduction,
  • loss and damage,
  • risk management
Publication Date
Spring 2018
Citation Information
Robert R.M. Verchick. "Can 'Loss and Damage' Carry the Load?" Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (2018)
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