Department, School, or Program

Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Degree Level



The purpose of this paper is to detail and explore both the ethical and pragmatic implications of aggressive climate change mitigation on a coordinated international level. Particularly, this paper attempts to assess the extent to which the leadership of the United States influences the relative success and failure of international agreements, and the agreements, structures and mechanisms themselves. A secondary assessment is the extent to which the United States has incurred additional responsibilities to mitigate beyond those shared by the world, from both a harm-based and special responsibilities standpoint. In this paper, I will ultimately argue that the United States has incurred additional mitigation responsibilities because of its extensive historical emissions, and because of its voluntarily assumed leadership role. First, the ethical imperatives for immediate and aggressive global mitigation are discussed, followed by an assessment of the establishment of the IPCC and UNFCCCC as well as the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols. I argue that the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, has the requisite flexibility to be successful across the diversity of the international contexts. I finally analyze the role of the United States in forging and implementing these agreements, and present an argument for heightened leadership and mitigation responsibilities for America.

Document Type

Unpublished Paper

Publication Date



Senior Thesis by Chelsey Davidson
Jepson School of Leadership Studies
University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia
Faculty Advisor: Javier Hidalgo