Climatic Change

, Volume 86, Issue 1–2, pp 67–82 | Cite as

Parallels in reactionary argumentation in the US congressional debates on the abolition of slavery and the Kyoto Protocol

  • Marc D. DavidsonEmail author
Open Access


Today, the United States is as dependent on fossil fuels for its patterns of consumption and production as its South was on slavery in the mid-nineteenth century. That US congressmen tend to rationalise fossil fuel use despite climate risks to future generations just as Southern congressmen rationalised slavery despite ideals of equality is perhaps unsurprising, then. This article explores similarities between the rationalisation of slavery in the abolition debates and the rationalisation of ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases in the US congressional debates on the Kyoto Protocol.


Climate Policy Kyoto Protocol Energy Information Administration House Floor Congressional Record 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adams J (1995) Risk. University College London, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Azar C, Schneider SH (2002) Are the economic costs of stabilising the atmosphere prohibitive? Ecol Econ 42(1–2):73–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bush GW (2001) Letter from the President to Senators Hagel, Helms, Craig, and Roberts. Cited 13 March 2001
  4. Calhoun JC (1849) The southern address. In: Crallé RK (ed) The works of John C. Calhoun: a disquisition on government and a discourse on the constitution and government of the United States. Charleston, SC, 1851, vol. VI, pp. 290–313Google Scholar
  5. CG, Congressional Globe: record of the congressional debates of the 23rd through 42nd Congresses (1833–73).
  6. Douglas M, Wildavsky A (1982) Risk and culture: an essay on the selection of technological and environmental dangers. University of California Press, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  7. EIA (Energy Information Administration) (1998) Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on U.S. Energy Markets and Economic Activity, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC.
  8. EIA (Energy Information Administration) (2004) International Energy Outlook 2004, DOE/EIA-0484(2004), Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) (2003) Memorandum August 28, 2003.
  10. Hansen J (2005) A slippery slope: how much global warming constitutes “dangerous anthropogenic interference”? An editorial essay. Clim Change 68(3):269–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hirschman AO (1991) The rhetoric of reaction: perversity, futility, jeopardy. Harvard University Press, HarvardGoogle Scholar
  12. Hummel JR (1996) Emancipating slaves, enslaving free men: a history of the American civil war. Open Court, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  13. IPCC (1995) Climate change 1995. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. IPCC (2001) Climate change 2001. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Jenkins WS (1935) Pro-slavery thought in the old south. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel HillGoogle Scholar
  16. Lincoln A (1860) The complete works of Abraham Lincoln. The Tandy – Thomas Co., New York, 1905, vol. V, pp. 343–44Google Scholar
  17. Meyer A (2000) Contraction & convergence: the global solution to climate change. Schumacher briefing no. 5. Green Books, BristolGoogle Scholar
  18. Miller WL (1996) Arguing about slavery, The great battle in the United States Congress. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Müller B (2000) Congressional climate change hearings: comedy or tragedy? A primer for aliens.
  20. Müller B (2001) Varieties of distributive justice in climate change. Clim Change 48(2–3):273–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. NAS (1998) Statement by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences regarding Global Change Petition. Cited 20 April 1998
  22. NAS (2001) Climate change science: an analysis of some key questions. National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  23. Orr D (2000) 2020: a proposal. Conserv Biol 14(2):338–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. PEW Center on Global Climate Change (2004) Climate change activities in the U.S.: 2004 Update, Arlington.
  25. RDC, Gales & Seaton’s Register of Debates in Congress: record of the congressional debates of the 18th Congress, 2nd Session through the 25th Congress, 1st Session (1824–37).
  26. Robinson AR, Baliunas SL, Soon W, Robinson, ZW (1998) Environmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine,
  27. Simms WG (1852) The pro-slavery argument; as maintained by the most distinguished writers of the Southern States, containing the several essays on the subject of Chancellor Harper, Governor Hammond, Dr. Simms, and Professor Dew, Charleston, Walker, Richards & Co.;idno=ABT7488.0001.001
  28. Tarbox IN (1843) An address on the origin, progress & present condition of philosophy 4, UticaGoogle Scholar
  29. Tise LE (1987) Proslavery: a history of the defense of slavery in America. University of Georgia Press, Athens, p1701–1840Google Scholar
  30. US Census (1860) Population of the United States in 1860, pp. 598–599Google Scholar
  31. U.S. Census Bureau (2004) International Population Reports WP/02, Global Population Profile: 2002. US Government Printing Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  32. WEFA (Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates) (1998) Global warming: the high cost of the Kyoto Protocol. Eddystone, PA. See executive summary at

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of HumanitiesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations