About this topic
Summary Climate change threatens to create serious risks, ranging from economic risks to increased risk of death and disease to the complete annihilation of small island states. The field of climate ethics (also known as "climate justice") includes questions about how global society should respond to the creation of such risks and who, exactly, should take responsibility for which parts of that response. Major issues include: How aggressively should society reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? How should the burden of achieving those reductions be distributed across and within nations? What role should adaptation play in responding to climate change? Should high emitters pay damages to affected parties? What responsibilities, if any, does climate change impose on individuals? Because climate change is unfolding on a global scale over long periods of time, and because it involves complex issues of politics, science, economics, and technology, answering these questions requires drawing on moral and political philosophy, philosophy of science and epistemology, philosophy of economics, and philosophy of technology, along with a range of other disciplines.
Key works The seminal review of climate ethics is still Gardiner 2004. For collections of key papers on various aspects of climate ethics, see Gardiner et al 2010, which compiles important papers from the first two decades of the field; Arnold 2011, which includes new papers on important issues in climate ethics; and Shue 2014, which collects major papers from one of the most important voices in climate ethics. Important monographs in climate ethics include Gardiner 2011, in which Gardiner delves more deeply into the structure of the moral problems raised by climate change; Broome 2012 and Moellendorf 2014, in which Broome and Moellendorf articulate their respective answers to key questions in climate ethics; and Vanderheiden 2008, in which Vanderheiden addresses issues of climate justice from the perspective of political theory. On the question of individual responsibility for climate change, see Sinnott-Armstrong 2005 (reprinted in Gardiner et al 2010); Hiller 2011, a reply to Sinnott-Armstrong; and for a different approach, Jamieson 2007 (also reprinted in Gardiner et al 2010).
Introductions Chapter 2 of Singer 2002 includes a highly accessible introduction to some key moral issues raised by climate change, suitable for beginning undergraduates. More advanced undergraduates might start with Hayward 2012. Graduate students and professionals looking for a concise survey of climate ethics should consider  Moellendorf 2015. Those looking for more detail, including relevant scientific and economic background, will find it in Gardiner 2004Broome 2012 provides an accessible book-length overview many key issues in climate ethics, along with a primer on climate science and climate economics. For an overview of the literature on climate change and individual responsibilities, see Fragnière 2016.
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  1. How To Be Rational: How to Think and Act Rationally.David Robert - manuscript
    This book is divided into 2 sections. In Section 1 (How to think rationally), I address how to acquire rational belief attitudes and, on that basis, I consider the question whether one ought to be skeptical of climate change. In Section 2 (How to act rationally), I address how to make rational choices and, on that basis, I consider the questions whether one is rationally required to do what one can to support life-extension medical research and, more broadly, whether one (...)
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  2. Precautionary Paralysis.J. E. H. Simon - manuscript
    A brief examination of the self-negating quality of the precautionary principle within the context of environmental ethics, and its consequent failure, as an ethical guide, to justify large-scale regulation of atmospheric cabon dioxide emissions.
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  3. Is Geoengineering the ‘Lesser Evil’?Stephen Gardiner - manuscript
    Environmental Research Web, April 18, 2007.
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  4. The Relationship Between International Political Community and Civil Society Concerning Environment Protection and the Struggle Against Climate Change.Valeria Barbi & Marco Borraccetti - forthcoming - Governare la Paura. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.
    The paper’s aim is to retrace the history of climate change through its definition and the process of negotiation aroused from the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC). After a brief description of this institution, the basic principles beneath the whole system of environment protection and the struggle against climate change will be presented. The intention is to demonstrate how, despite the undeniable advancements of the latest decades, the international legislative framework, even supported by the (...)
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  5. Offsetting and Risk-Imposition.Christian Barry & Garrett Cullity - forthcoming - Ethics.
    Suppose you perform two actions. The first imposes a risk of harm that, on its own, would be excessive; but the second reduces the risk of harm by a corresponding amount. By pairing the two actions together to form a set of actions that is risk-neutral, can you thereby make your overall course of conduct permissible? This question is theoretically interesting, because the answer is apparently: sometimes Yes, sometimes No. It is also practically important, because it bears on the moral (...)
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  6. Beyond the Ramsey Model for Climate Change Assessments.S. Baum - forthcoming - Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics.
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  7. Two Forms of Responsibility: Reassessing Young on Structural Injustice.Valentin Beck - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy:1-24.
    In this article, I critically reassess Iris Marion Young's late works, which centre on the distinction between liability and social connection responsibility. I concur with Young's diagnosis that structural injustices call for a new conception of responsibility, but I reject several core assumptions that underpin her distinction between two models and argue for a different way of conceptualising responsibility to address structural injustices. I show that Young's categorical separation of guilt and responsibility is not supported by the writings of Hannah (...)
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  8. On Individual and Shared Obligations: In Defense of the Activist’s Perspective.Gunnar Björnsson - forthcoming - In Mark Budolfson, Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), Philosophy and Climate Change. Oxford University Press.
    We naturally attribute obligations to groups, and take such obligations to have consequences for the obligations of group members. The threat posed by anthropogenic climate change provides an urgent case. It seems that we, together, have an obligation to prevent climate catastrophe, and that we, as individuals, have an obligation to contribute. However, understood strictly, attributions of obligations to groups might seem illegitimate. On the one hand, the groups in question—the people alive today, say—are rarely fully-fledged moral agents, making it (...)
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  9. Global Warming, Hybrid Technology, and Carbon Emissions.Ian P. Bork, Jonathan Garfinkel & Bruce Lusignan - forthcoming - Ethics.
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  10. Ethical Values and the Integrity of the Climate Change Regime.Hugh Breakey, Vesselin Popovski & Rowena Maguire (eds.) - forthcoming - Ashgate.
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  11. Geoengineering and Climate Change.W. C. G. Burns & J. Blackstock (eds.) - forthcoming - Cambridge University Press.
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  12. 'Distributive Justice and Climate Change'.Simon Caney - forthcoming - In Serena Olsaretti (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice. Oxford University Press.
    This paper discusses two distinct questions of distributive justice raised by climate change. Stated very roughly, one question concerns how much protection is owed to the potential victims of climate change (the Just Target Question), and the second concerns how the burdens (and benefits) involved in preventing dangerous climate change should be distributed (the Just Burden Question). In Section II, I focus on the first of these questions, the Just Target Question. The rest of the paper examines the second question, (...)
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  13. Let's Talk About the Weather: Decentering Democratic Debate About Climate Change.Tom D. Dillehay - forthcoming - Hypatia.
  14. The Water, Food, Energy and Climate Nexus: Challenges and an Agenda for Action.Felix Dodds & Jamie Bartram - forthcoming - Routledge.
    Global trends of population growth, rising living standards and the rapidly increasing urbanized world are increasing the demand on water, food and energy. Added to this is the growing threat of climate change which will have huge impacts on water and food availability. It is increasingly clear that there is no place in an interlinked world for isolated solutions aimed at just one sector. In recent years the "nexus" has emerged as a powerful concept to capture these inter-linkages of resources (...)
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  15. The Fifth Planet.Loren Eiseley - forthcoming - Techne.
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  16. 21st Century Climate Change in the Middle East.Jason P. Evans - forthcoming - Climatic Change.
    This study examined the performance and future predictions for the Middle East produced by 18 global climate models participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report. Under the Special Report on Emission Scenarios A2 emissions scenario the models predict an overall temperature increase of ~1.4 K by mid-century, increasing to almost 4 K by late-century for the Middle East. In terms of precipitation the southernmost portion of the domain experiences a small increase in precipitation due to the (...)
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  17. Airborne Transport of Aerosols Into the South Atlantic Ocean: Assessment of Sources, Horizontal Fluxes, Iron Fertilizing Potential and Impact on Climate.Diego Gaiero - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  18. Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption.Stephen M. Gardiner - forthcoming - Environmental Ethics.
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  19. Descriptive Versus Prescriptive Discounting in Climate Change Policy Analysis.Kelleher J. Paul - forthcoming - Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy 15:957-977.
    This paper distinguishes between five different approaches to social discount rates in climate change economics, criticizes two of these, and explains how the other three are to some degree mutually compatible. It aims to shed some new light on a longstanding debate in climate change economics between so-called “descriptivists” and “prescriptivists” about social discounting. The ultimate goal is to offer a sketch of the conceptual landscape that makes visible some important facets of the debate that very often go unacknowledged.
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  20. Lake Level Responses to Semi-Arid Climate and Their Social Impacts in Turkey.Nizamettin Kazancı - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  21. The Social Cost of Carbon From Theory to Trump.J. Paul Kelleher - forthcoming - In Ravi Kanbur & Henry Shue (eds.), Climate Justice: Integrating Economics and Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a central concept in climate change economics. This chapter explains the SCC and investigates it philosophically. As is widely acknowledged, any SCC calculation requires the analyst to make choices about the infamous topic of discount rates. But to understand the nature and role of discounting, one must understand how that concept—and indeed the SCC concept itself—is yoked to the concept of a value function, whose job is to take ways the world could be (...)
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  22. Environment, Ethics and Public Health: The Climate Change Dilemma.A. Kessel, C. Stephens & A. Dawson - forthcoming - Public Health Ethics: Key Concepts and Issues in Policy and Practice:154--173.
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  23. No Harm Done? An Experimental Approach to the Non-Identity Problem.Matthew Kopec & Justin P. Bruner - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    Discussions of the non-identity problem presuppose a widely shared intuition that actions or policies that change who comes into existence don't, thereby, become morally unproblematic. We hypothesize that this intuition isn’t generally shared by the public, which could have widespread implications concerning how to generate support for large-scale, identity-affecting policies relating to matters like climate change. To test this, we ran a version of the well-known dictator game designed to mimic the public's behavior over identity-affecting choices. We found the public (...)
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  24. Ethics of Climate Change Essay Contest.P. Kuhn - forthcoming - Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics.
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  25. Climate Ethics for Climate Action.Andrew Light - forthcoming - Environmental Ethics: What Really Matters.
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  26. New Solar System Force, Decay of Gravity, and Expansion of the Solar System.Charles William Bill Lucas Jr & Joseph J. Smulsky - forthcoming - Foundations of Science.
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  27. Climate–Fire–Vegetation Interactions During the Late Holocene in Las Yungas Upper Montane Forest, Lagunas de Yala. Northwestern Argentina.Liliana Concepción Lupo - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  28. Climate Change and Health: Bioethical Insights Into Values and Policy.Cheryl Macpherson (ed.) - forthcoming - Springer.
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  29. Holocene Climate Change and Human Settlement on the Semiarid Coast of Chile (32ºS).Antonio Maldonado - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  30. Philosophy and Climate Change.Budolfson Mark, McPherson Tristram & Plunkett David (eds.) - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.
    This volume is guided by two thoughts. First, philosophers have much to contribute to the discussion of climate change. Second, reflection on climate change can contribute to our thinking about a range of general topics that are of independent interest to philosophers. This volume will be of interest both to philosophers working on climate change as well as those working in a range of other fields, ranging from public policy to economics to law to empirical disciplines including psychology, the science (...)
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  31. Fossil Fuels.Kian A. Mintz-Woo - forthcoming - In Benjamin Hale & Andrew Light (eds.), Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics. Routledge.
    First, with respect to our personal relationship to fossil fuels, this chapter introduces arguments about whether we should or even can address our own usage of fossil fuels. This involves determining whether offsetting emissions is morally required and practically possible. Second, with respect to our relationship with fossil fuels at the national level, it discusses forms of local resistance, especially divestment and pipeline protesting. Finally, with respect to our relationship with fossil fuels at the international level, it considers two types (...)
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  32. Carbon Pricing and COVID-19.Kian Mintz-Woo, Francis Dennig, Hongxun Liu & Thomas Schinko - forthcoming - Climate Policy.
    [Article currently freely available to all at the DOI link below] A question arising from the COVID-19 crisis is whether the merits of cases for climate policies have been affected. This article focuses on carbon pricing, in the form of either carbon taxes or emissions trading. It discusses the extent to which relative costs and benefits of introducing carbon pricing may have changed in the context of COVID-19, during both the crisis and the recovery period to follow. In several ways, (...)
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  33. What Do Climate Change Winners Owe, and to Whom?Kian Mintz-Woo & Justin Leroux - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-22.
    Climate ethics has been concerned with polluter pays, beneficiary pays and ability to pay principles, all of which consider climate change as a single negative externality. This paper considers it as a constellation of externalities, positive and negative, with different associated demands of justice. This is important because explicitly considering positive externalities has not to our knowledge been done in the climate ethics literature. Specifically, it is argued that those who enjoy passive gains from climate change owe gains not to (...)
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  34. The Last 25, 000 Years of Vegetation and Climate History in NW Patagonia.Patricio I. Moreno - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  35. Holocene Vegetation and Climate Changes in Brazil Using Carbon Isotopes of Soil Organic Matter and Lacustrine Sediment Pollen Analysis.Luiz Carlos Ruiz Pessenda - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  36. The Effects of Morality on Acting Against Climate Change.Thomas Pölzler - forthcoming - In Richard Joyce & Richard Garner (eds.), The End of Morality. New York: Routledge.
    Suppose you are a moral error theorist, i.e., you believe that no moral judgment is true. What, then, ought you to do with regard to our common practice of making such judgments? Determining the usefulness of our ordinary moral practice is exacerbated by the great number and variety of moral judgments. In-depth case studies may thus be more helpful in clarifying error theory’s practical implications than reflections about morality in general. In this chapter I pursue this strategy with regard to (...)
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  37. Geoengineering as a Matter of Environmental Instrumentalism.Shane J. Ralston - forthcoming - In W. C. G. Burns & J. Blackstock (eds.), Geoengineering and Climate Change. Cambridge University Press.
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  38. Public Debt and Intergenerational Ethics: How to Fund a Green 'Apollo Program'?Matthew Rendall - forthcoming - Climate Policy.
    If the present generation refuses to bear the burden of mitigating global heating, could we motivate sufficient action by shifting that burden to our descendants? Several writers have proposed breaking the political impasse by funding mitigation through public debt. Critics attack such proposals as both unjust and infeasible. In fact, there is reason to think that some debt financing may be more equitable than placing the whole burden of mitigation on the present generation. While it might not be viable for (...)
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  39. Energy Consumption Behaviour and Attitudes Towards Climate Change in Hashtgerd New Town.Sabine Schröder, Jenny Schmithals, Nadia Poor-Rahim & Merten Kannegießer - forthcoming - Nexus.
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  40. Renewables.Anne Schwenkenbecher & Martin Brueckner - forthcoming - In Benjamin Hale & Andrew Light (eds.), Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics. Routledge.
    There exist overwhelming – and morally compelling – reasons for shifting to renewable energy (RE), because only that will enable us to timely mitigate dangerous global warming. In addition, several other morally weighty reasons speak in favor of the shift: considerable public health benefits, broader environmental benefits, the potential for sustainable and equitable economic development and equitable energy access, and, finally, long-term energy security. Furthermore, it appears that the transition to RE is economically, technologically, and politically feasible at this point (...)
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  41. Climate Change and the Concept of Shared Responsibility.Johanna Seibt - forthcoming - Environmental Ethics.
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  42. Global Warming is Good for You.Duncan Steel - forthcoming - The Guardian.
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  43. Libertarianism, Climate Change, and Individual Responsibility.Olle Torpman - forthcoming - Res Publica:1-24.
    Much has been written about climate change from an ethical view in general, but less has been written about it from a libertarian point of view in particular. In this paper, I apply the libertarian moral theory to the problem of climate change. I focus on libertarianism’s implications for our individual emissions. I argue that even if our individual emissions cause no harm to others, these emissions cross other people’s boundaries, although the boundary-crossings that are due to our ‘subsistence emissions’ (...)
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  44. Letting Climate Change.Charlotte Franziska Unruh - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-19.
    Recent work by Ingmar Persson and Jason Hanna has posed an interesting new challenge for deontologists: How can they account for so-called cases of letting oneself do harm? In this paper, I argue that cases of letting oneself do harm are structurally similar to real-world cases such as climate change, and that deontologists need an account of the moral status of these cases to provide moral guidance in real-world cases. I then explore different ways in which deontologists can solve this (...)
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  45. Tree-Rings as an Indicator of Environmental-Stress: Past and Present Climate Impacts on Water, Forests and People.Ricardo Villalba - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  46. The Nexus of Climate Change and Trade: Don't Break the Rules.Christopher Wenk & Stefanie Westerman - forthcoming - Nexus.
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  47. The Skeptic and the Climate Change Skeptic.Alex Worsnip - forthcoming - In Michael Hannon & Jeroen de Ridder (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology. Routledge.
    Outside the philosophy classroom, global skeptics – skeptics about all (purported) knowledge of the external world – are rare. But there are people who describe themselves as “skeptics” about various more specific domains, including self-professed “skeptics” about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. There is little to no philosophical literature that juxtaposes the climate change skeptic with the external world skeptic. While many “traditional” epistemologists assume that the external world skeptic poses a serious philosophical challenge in a way that the (...)
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  48. Conceptual Engineering is Extremely Unlikely to Work. So What?James Andow - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (1-2):212-226.
    ABSTRACT Conceptual engineering aims to improve our concepts. That's plausibly an extremely difficult thing to do. Should this make us sceptical of the idea that philosophers should try to do it? You might think so. Cappelen, in his Fixing Language: an Essay on Conceptual Engineering, thinks it shouldn't stop us – but his stated reasons are not really encouraging. In this paper, I say what I think Cappelen should have said, on the basis of a very rough cost-benefit analysis.
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  49. The Climate Imperative for Business.Brian Berkey & Eric W. Orts - 2021 - California Management Review 63.
  50. The Just Savings Principle.Eric Brandstedt - 2021 - The Oxford Handbook of Intergenerational Ethics.
    This chapter situates John Rawls’ just savings principle in a discussion about how much a nation-state should save. The main question addressed is whether this principle is a viable alternative to the dominant utilitarian theory of optimal growth. Rawls certainly gives savings a different aim (i.e., to create and maintain just institutions) and introduces additional permissibility conditions on reaching this goal (i.e., the necessary burdens should be fairly shared between generations). He thereby gives rise to the field of research now (...)
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