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A Perfect Moral StormThe Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change$
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Stephen M. Gardiner

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379440

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379440.001.0001

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An Intergenerational Arms Race?

An Intergenerational Arms Race?

(p.185) Chapter 6 An Intergenerational Arms Race?
A Perfect Moral Storm

Stephen M. Gardiner

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers three theses: that the possibility of abrupt change undermines the usual economic, psychological and intergenerational causes of political inertia; that it provides the current generation with positive motivation to act; and that it implies that there is some kind of fail-safe system that will limit humanity's on-going infliction of climate change on itself and other species. Against these claims, it argues that although the real possibility of abrupt change does tend to undermine economic explanations for inertia (which were, however, not very strong anyway), it does not undercut either its psychological, or intergenerational roots. Paradoxically, abrupt climate change threatens to make climate change an even worse problem by increasing each generation's incentive to consume dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, and may even cause at least some generations to have a moral license to do so.

Keywords:   gradual climate change, abrupt climate change, psychology of risk, climate economics, political inertia, tipping points, game theory

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