Dissertation, York Universiy (2017)

Aaron Saad
McMaster University
The term climate justice, despite wide usage, defies easy definition. I argue that in order to appreciate it in its full complexity, climate justice is best understood as a moral framework with 2 facets. Facet 1 allows us to identify the various moral wrongs or concerns that are either causing, caused by, or raised by climate change while facet 2 allows us to understand how struggles to win responses to climate change that address those moral concerns are being organized. It is this second facet that I explore at length in this dissertation by identifying different fronts in the struggle for climate justice. A first front I refer to as climate justice as climate ethics, in which rigorous moral philosophical reasoning is deployed to shape the creation of a just global agreement governing the distribution of climate burdens and benefits among nations. A second front is the climate justice of the climate movement, which uses several prominent social movement strategies to attempt to make governing elites democratically accountable to moral demands for climate action. However, progress on both of these fronts is constrained by the logics of capitalism and liberal representative democracy, which together filter out all but a narrow range of climate responses. I therefore argue that it is necessary to turn to a third front, climate justice as just society, which seeks to disrupt liberalisms ideological hold in order to justify alternative institutional arrangements that can form the basis of a society that is simultaneously more just and better able to respond to the climate crisis. I identify political projects in the Leap Manifesto and in a capabilities approach to justice that can potentially make progress on this third front.
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