EPRG 0921

William J Nuttall
Slaves to Oil: Exploring parallels between the abolition of slavery and the challenge of climate change mitigation

EPRG 0921 Non-Technical Summary | PDF

Also published in:

  • Nuttall, W.J., “Slaves to Oil”, chapter of “Energy and Innovation: Structural Change”, Purdue University Press, Chapter 6,  pp. 121-134, RPR chapter of PRB

Abstract: This paper summarises and reviews scholarly and political comment that draws parallels between the current policy challenge of large-scale greenhouse gas emission reduction and the challenge in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century of slavery abolition. Parallels are drawn at several levels including: the nature of the political discourse; the relationship between an ethics-driven societal shift and economic interests; the role of enabling technological change and the relationship of slavery/environmental policy to geopolitics and the use of military force. Noting the rapid growth of reported points of comparison between slavery abolition and greenhouse gas emissions reduction the author’s intention is merely to collect and collate such reports, rather than critically to assess the merits, or otherwise, of such reports. It is suggested that such criticism is best deferred until a later date. The paper closes, however, with the observation that, just as today slavery is still not eradicated, the issue of problematic greenhouse gas emissions will still be with us long after the key policy breakthrough has been secured.

Keywords: Climate Change, Slavery, Political Rhetoric

JEL Classifiation: B15

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