AN UNDEREXAMINED ASPECT of global warming is the geographic separation between the people who generate greenhouse gases and the people who are most likely to be hurt by global warming. This article explains how World Systems Theory (WST) can help us understand how climate change is both a cause and a consequence of existing social and regional inequalities. This essay begins by explaining the basic concepts of WST. It then uses WST to explain how geopolitical structures in the global economy ensure that the benefits and costs of burning fossil fuels are not shared equally.

WST evolved to counter free-market economists such as Walter Rostow, who argued that countries were poor because of deficiencies within those countries. Less developed countries could advance by emulating wealthy countries, ...

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