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Debating Climate Ethics$
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Stephen M. Gardiner and David A. Weisbach

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199996476

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199996476.001.0001

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Betraying the Future

Betraying the Future

(p.6) 2 Betraying the Future
Debating Climate Ethics

Stephen M. Gardiner

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that ethics plays a fundamental role in climate policy for three reasons. First, we need ethical concepts to identify the relevant problem, otherwise we risk violating intelligibility constraints. Second, ethical considerations are at the heart of the main policy decisions that must be made, such as how quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time, how those emissions that are allowable at a given time should be distributed, and what should be done to address unavoided impacts. Third, and more generally, climate change presents a severe ethical challenge for humanity and its institutions: it is a perfect moral storm. The focus of the chapter is on introducing the perfect moral storm and its major constituents: the global, intergenerational ethics, ecological, and theoretical storms. It also describes a lurking problem of moral corruption.

Keywords:   climate change, tragedy of the commons, tyranny of the contemporary, intergenerational ethics, climate justice, Anthropocene, collective action problems, international justice

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