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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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Climate Policy and Self-Interest

Climate Policy and Self-Interest

Chapter:
(p.170) 6 Climate Policy and Self-Interest
Source:
Debating Climate Ethics
Author(s):

Stephen M. Gardiner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199996476.003.0006

To understand how justice and ethics apply to climate change, this chapter considers the major alternative: self-interest. It argues that it is in our self-interest to end our fossil fuel infrastructure and reduce emissions to zero or near zero in the not-too-distant future. Emissions reductions must be global and must begin soon. Uncertainty about the likely effects of climate change impacts strengthens rather than weakens the need for emissions reductions because this uncertainty is not symmetric and the risks of inaction are far greater than the negative consequences of action. Though these conclusions may sound stark, they are actually based on conservative assumptions. Past emissions have used up most of the flexibility that we might once have had. Therefore, following our self-interest will not lead to terrible outcomes, but rather to the requirement of drastic emissions reductions and an energy transition as soon as possible.

Keywords:   emissions, climate change impacts, energy transition, greenhouse gases, fossil fuel infrastructure

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