This paper explores why it is so hard for us to do what we morally ought to do to mitigate anthropogenic climate change by reducing our carbon dioxide, CO2, emissions. It distinguishes between two sources of this difficulty: factors which make us underrate the harm that we individually cause when we perform our everyday CO2 emitting acts and, thus, the wrongness of these acts, and factors which make it difficult for us to cooperate to the extent necessary to mitigate (...) effectively harmful climate change by reducing our everyday CO2 emitting acts. Under are listed such factors as the temporal remoteness of climate harm, the fact that the causal connections between our acts and this harm are elusive, that countless agents together cause harm which is diffused widely over countless, anonymous victims, by acts routinely done. As regards, a comparison with the problems of cooperation in the well-known tragedy of the commons is natural, but it is here argued that the problem of reducing our CO2 emissions is disanalogous in several respects which make it harder: the world’s nations differ enormously in respect of level of welfare, their record of past emissions, and the degree of exposure to climate harm; additionally, it is harder to survey compliance and apply sanctions to those who defect from agreements, in particular as future generations who have not consented to these agreements are involved. Together these factors make up a good case for saying that the problem of ameliorating anthropogenic climate change by reduction of our CO2 emissions is the hardest moral problem humanity is facing. (shrink)
The majority of people show persistent poor performance in reasoning about “stock-flow problems” in the laboratory. An important example is the failure to understand the relationship between the “stock” of CO2 in the atmosphere, the “inflow” via anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and the “outflow” via natural CO2 absorption. This study addresses potential causes of reasoning failures in the CO2 accumulation problem and reports two experiments involving a simple re-framing of the task as managing an analogous financial budget. In Experiment 1 (...) a financial version of the task that required participants to think in terms of controlling debt demonstrated significant improvements compared to a standard CO2 accumulation problem. Experiment 2, in which participants were invited to think about managing savings, suggested that this improvement was fortuitous and coincidental rather than due to a fundamental change in understanding the stock-flow relationships. The role of graphical information in aiding or abetting stock-flow reasoning was also explored in both experiments, with the results suggesting that graphs do not always assist understanding. The potential for leveraging the kind of reasoning exhibited in such tasks in an effort to change people's willingness to reduce CO2 emissions is briefly discussed. (shrink)
In June 2017, President Trump announced that the US intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The decision was widely viewed as an abrogation of US leadership in confronting a changing climate. I’m not interested here in the decision to withdraw from Paris per se. Instead, I’m interested in Paris as a useful contrast for the administration’s attitude towards a different international environmental agreement: the Montreal Protocol.
Mainstream thought on environmental justice emphasizes disparities between populations in terms of their exposure to environmental risks. Climate change has recently shifted attention from vulnerability to responsibility, with much of the research and dissemination of results accentuating differential contributions on the part of various groups to CO2 emissions and their accumulation in the atmosphere. But efforts to monitor, mitigate and adapt to climate change are largely premised on sovereign states as the main units of analysis, and on comparisons between (...) them as the primary tool for designing policy. This approach, which reifies climate change as a technical, distant and detached issue, arrests the long overdue politicization of the atmosphere. This Article, which uses data from Israel on differentiated levels of CO2 emissions by income decile, suggests that hitherto overlooked in-country disparities in CO2 emissions are an integral part of the problem and of potential ways to tackle it. Offering a critique of attempts to use distributive justice as a basis for a global climate pact, it calls for further in-country analysis of emissions and a better understanding of how the outcomes of those attempts might become relevant to more people globally. Such insights, it argues, are essential for climate policies to become politicized and thus gain prominence and urgency in political debates, campaigns, and eventually on the executive agenda of all levels of government. (shrink)
Climate policy decisions are decisions under uncertainty and are, therefore, based on a range of future climate scenarios, describing possible consequences of alternative policies. Accordingly, the methodology for setting up such a scenario range becomes pivotal in climate policy advice. The preferred methodology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be characterised as ,,modal verificationism"; it suffers from severe shortcomings which disqualify it for scientific policy advice. Modal falsificationism, as a more sound alternative, would radically alter the way the (...) climate scenario range is set up. Climate science's inability to find robust upper bounds for future temperature rise in line with modal falsificationism does not disprove that methodology, rather, this very fact prescribes even more drastic efforts to curb CO2 emissions than currently proposed. (shrink)
What would be a fair solution to the problem of climate change? How should we distribute duties and financial burdens of the necessary CO2 reductions if this is to be done in an equitable manner? My answer to these ethical questions is based on a principle formulated by Angela Merkel: Every human has the right to cause as much in terms of CO2 emissions as any other. Unlike the German chancellor who wants to implement this principle only in the (...) long term, I argue that there should already be equality in the case of CO2 emissions under the regime to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.First, the increase in worldwide CO2 emissions should be halted. To achieve this in a just way, the rights allowing CO2 emissions are issued in small portions. The amount of CO2 that may be emitted according to these certificates will equal the amount currently emitted per year. Whoever wishes to emit CO2, regardless of where, when and for what, may do so only after cancelling a corresponding number of micro-certificates, otherwise a penalty would be incurred. The micro-certificates are traded on a stock exchange; their price is determined by supply and demand.My proposal differs from the auctions of CO2 certificates that have been conceived and organised so far in two aspects. On the one hand all emissions of climate-adverse gases should ultimately be included in the trading of micro-certificates. On the other hand, the money collected in the auctions of micro-certificates will be disbursed to every single person at regular intervals and without deductions. This is easy, fair and transparent.In a second step, the worldwide CO2 emissions have to be reduced drastically: After a respite of seven years the seven years of drought in CO2 politics begin: Every year the micro-certificates issued are cut by 10 percent. At the end of this lean spell the worldwide CO2 emissions have been halved, and money has been invested where it helps the climate most and where this costs least. (shrink)
Brown, Roy W The International Panel on Climate Change issued its second-last full report in 2007. The experts hoped at that time that, provided sufficient measures were taken soon enough to reduce CO2 emissions, it should be possible to limit global warming to just 2 degrees Celsius over the coming century. But over the past five years and despite the economic downturn, the effects of global warming have been accelerating and the experts' predictions, no doubt mindful of the massive (...) political opposition to their message, were quite simply too optimistic. In this article I summarise the evidence that the consequences of global warming will be devastating within the lifetimes of most people alive today. (shrink)
The cement industry is one of the most energy-intensive industries and among the largest CO2 emitters. Cement industry emissions in China have attracted particular attention, due to the country’s rapid growth. Yet few local Chinese cement companies have corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, and even fewer have environmentally related CSR programs. This paper studies the environmentally related CSR practices in mainland China of two companies: Lafarge, a multinational cement company, and Shui On, a Hong Kong-based construction company and developer. (...) We are interested in examining if there are differences in their environmentally related CSR practices, especially those related to emissions, in industrialized countries and Hong Kong on the one hand andin mainland China on the other—given that environmental regulations on the mainland are lax and an awareness of global climate change is largely nonexistent. Our intention is to investigate the influence of the CSR practices of multinational enterprises (MNEs) on the local Chinese cement industry, because they could be regarded as an effective vehicle to improve CSR awareness and practice in the Chinese cement industry and to help alleviate the industry’s impact on global climate change. We found that beneficial knowledge transfer from MNEs to local companies has not gone beyond improving production technology and management methods to the point of influencing CO2 emissions. Lafarge China and Shui On Cement announced a joint venture partnership during the course of our case study, and we examine whether this venture may have an impact on emission-related CSR practices in the Chinese cement industry. (shrink)
The cement industry is one of the most energy-intensive industries and among the largest CO2 emitters. Cement industry emissions in China have attracted particular attention, due to the country’s rapid growth. Yet few local Chinese cement companies have corporate social responsibility programs, and even fewer have environmentally related CSR programs. This paper studies the environmentally related CSR practices in mainland China of two companies: Lafarge, a multinational cement company, and Shui On, a Hong Kong-based construction company and developer. We (...) are interested in examining if there are differences in their environmentally related CSR practices, especially those related to emissions, in industrialized countries and Hong Kong on the one hand andin mainland China on the other—given that environmental regulations on the mainland are lax and an awareness of global climate change is largely nonexistent. Our intention is to investigate the influence of the CSR practices of multinational enterprises on the local Chinese cement industry, because they could be regarded as an effective vehicle to improve CSR awareness and practice in the Chinese cement industry and to help alleviate the industry’s impact on global climate change. We found that beneficial knowledge transfer from MNEs to local companies has not gone beyond improving production technology and management methods to the point of influencing CO2 emissions. Lafarge China and Shui On Cement announced a joint venture partnership during the course of our case study, and we examine whether this venture may have an impact on emission-related CSR practices in the Chinese cement industry. (shrink)
To reduce CO2 emissions requires greater reliance on renewable sources of energy for generating electricity, especially adoption of large-scale wind generation. This study investigates possible approaches and/or policies that increase efficient use of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a cost effective manner. We develop a constrained optimization model of two electricity systems to identify the impact of increasing wind generating capacity and examine how carbon prices (taxes, allowances) impact the penetration of wind power into the (...) electricity grids. Rather than employ engineering cost functions, marginal cost functions are estimated using hourly offer data from the Alberta Electric System Operator. We determine optimal removal of coal generating facilities as greater levels of wind capacity are installed in an integrated Alberta-BC electricity system; and examine the economic costs and institutional incentives that affect the ability to store intermittent wind-generated power in BC’s hydro reservoirs during low demand. The marginal shadow price of storage is zero, whichindicates that there is more than enough water behind the dams given Alberta’s relatively small demand for storage and limited intertie transmission capacity. (shrink)
Development of carbon neutral energy sources is essential if the US is to reduce the release of greenhouse gases and the associated potential for global climate change. In the US a few giant corporations dominate the energy sector. Furthermore, there has been virtually no federal leadership on energy issues, and the awareness of the issues by the general public, let alone their understanding of them, is low. In Europe, the energy sector is also dominated by a few players, but the (...) higher awareness of the public, the long lasting efforts of NGOs and other stakeholders, in addition to the mandatory regulations (both at a national and an European level) has created a different “energy landscape”. Even in Europe, the current and pending reductions in CO2 emissions are still far short of what is required and the level of understanding of the issues by the public is still relatively low on both continents. In this paper, we identify and discuss the main politicalchallenges and drivers in the energy and climate debate, and we point out that while the energy sector has no interest to tackle greenhouse gas emissions without significantly greater public pressure, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in this sector could nonetheless play a key role in changing US energy policy, but at the same time is very unlikely to be sufficient by itself. (shrink)
Environmental ethicists have not reached a consensus about whether or not individuals who contribute to climate change have a moral obligation to reduce their personal greenhouse gas emissions. In this paper, I side with those who think that such individuals do have such an obligation by appealing to the concept of integrity. I argue that adopting a political commitment to work toward a collective solution to climate change—a commitment we all ought to share—requires also adopting a personal commitment to (...) reduce one’s emissions. On these grounds, individuals who contribute to climate change have a prima facie moral duty to lower their personal greenhouse gas emissions. After presenting this argument and supporting each of its premises, I defend it from two major lines of objection: skepticism about integrity’s status as a virtue and concerns that the resulting moral duty would be too demanding to be morally required. I then consider the role that an appeal to integrity could play in galvanizing the American public to take personal and political action regarding climate change. (shrink)
There are a number of cases where, collectively, groups cause harm, and yet no single individual’s contribution to the collective makes any difference to the amount of harm that is caused. For instance, though human activity is collectively causing climate change, my individual greenhouse gas emissions are neither necessary nor sufficient for any harm that results from climate change. Some (e.g., Sinnott-Armstrong) take this to indicate that there is no individual moral obligation to reduce emissions. There is a (...) collective action problem here, to which I offer a solution. My solution rests on an argument for a (sometimes) bare moral difference between intending harm and foreseeing with near certainty that harm will result as an unintended side-effect of one’s action. I conclude that we have a moral obligation to reduce our individual emissions; and, more broadly, an obligation to not participate in many other harmful group activities (e.g., factory-farming). (shrink)
In order to decide whether a comprehensive treaty covering all greenhouse gases is the best next step after UNCED, one needs to distinguish among the four questions about the international justice of such international arrangements: (1) What is a fair allocation of the costs of preventing the global warming that is still avoidable?; (2) What is a fair allocation of the costs of coping with the social consequences of the global warming that will not in fact be avoided?; (3) What (...) background allocation of wealth would allow international bargaining (about issues like 1 and 2) to be a fair process?; and (4) What is a fair allocation of emissions of greenhouse gases (over the long-term and during the transition to the long-term allocation)? In answering each question we must specify from whom any transfers should come and to whom any transfers should go. As the grounds for the answers we usually face a choice between fault-based principles and no-fault principles. (shrink)
Stocks and flows are building blocks of dynamic systems: Stocks change through inflows and outflows, such as our bank balance changing with withdrawals and deposits, or atmospheric CO2 with absorptions and emissions. However, people make systematic errors when trying to infer the behavior of dynamic systems, termed SF failure, whose cognitive explanations are yet unknown. We argue that SF failure appears when people focus on specific system elements, rather than on the system structure and gestalt. Using a standard SF (...) task, SF failure decreased by a global as opposed to local task format; individual global as opposed to local processing styles; and global as opposed to local perceptual priming. These results converge toward local processing as an explanation for SF failure. We discuss theoretical and practical implications on the connections between the scope of attention and understanding of dynamic systems. (shrink)
Ethics requires good science. Many scientists, government leaders, and industry representatives support tripling of global-nuclear-energy capacity on the grounds that nuclear fission is “carbon free” and “releases no greenhouse gases.” However, such claims are scientifically questionable (and thus likely to lead to ethically questionable energy choices) for at least 3 reasons. (i) They rely on trimming the data on nuclear greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGE), perhaps in part because flawed Kyoto Protocol conventions require no full nuclear-fuel-cycle assessment of carbon content. (ii) (...) They underestimate nuclear-fuel-cycle releases by erroneously assuming that mostly high-grade uranium ore, with much lower emissions, is used. (iii) They inconsistently compare nuclear-related GHGE only to those from fossil fuels, rather than to those from the best GHG-avoiding energy technologies. Once scientists take account of (i)–(iii), it is possible to show that although the nuclear fuel cycle releases (per kWh) much fewer GHG than coal and oil, nevertheless it releases far more GHG than wind and solar-photovoltaic. Although there may be other, ethical, reasons to support nuclear tripling, reducing or avoiding GHG does not appear to be one of them. (shrink)
This essay sketches out what a utilitarian should support when considering global warming along with what measures can be recommended to political leaders for utilitarian reasons. If we estimate the utility of the great advantages that any ambitious climate policy might create in the name of poverty reduction in the present, I will show how a decision can be made in favor of a vigorous climate policy based on such estimates. My argument is independent of the truth of the claims (...) of climate sceptics. Until now, the debate has neglected the double effects of a vigorous climate policy that not only avoids risks of damages but also creates utility. In conclusion, three strategies of a climate policy legitimized by utilitarianism will be introduced: (1) Utilitarianism favors global emissions trading in comparison with a global CO2 tax. (2) Utilitarianism calls for this trade to be introduced while, at the same time, investments in renewable energies should be increased. (3) Furthermore, utilitarianism favors a policy that aims to slow down the rate of population growth. (shrink)
The concept of 'sustainable development' as used by the Brundtland Commission was meant to separate environmental policy from distributional conflicts. Increases in income sometimes are beneficial for the environment, but higher incomes have meant higher emissions of greenhouse gases, and higher rates of genetic erosion. In the aftermath of the Rio conference of June 1992, this article analyses some unavoidable links between distributional conflicts and environmental policy. Often, environmental movements have tried to keep environmental resources and services outside the (...) market, but there are now attempts to establish property rights on, and to give money values to environmental resources and services, such as agricultural genetic resources and the CO2 absorption facility provided by the oceans and new vegetation. European 'green' proposals to impose an 'eco-tax', and proposals from India to create a world market for CO2 emission permits are considered. The issue raised by the growing Third World agroecology movement, of payment of 'farmers' rights' for in situ agricultural biodiversity is discussed. The article includes a short discussion of the North American free trade agreement between Mexico and the USA, in so far as it involves so-called 'ecological dumping', i.e. trading at values which do not include environmental costs. In the last sections, the article asks how prices in ecologically-extended markets would be formed, how much such prices will depend on distribution, and how much such payments would change distribution of income. Environmental movements of the Poor are faced with the dilemma of keeping environmental resources and services out of the market, or else asking for property rights to be placed on them. (shrink)
The climate change problem must be thought of in terms of risk, not certainty. There are many well-established elements of the problem that carry considerable confidence whereas some aspects are speculative. Therefore, the climate problem emerges not simply as a normal science research issue, but as a risk management policy debate as well. Descriptive science entails using empirical and theoretical methods to quantify the two factors that go into risk assessment: “What can happen?” and “What are the odds?” (Probability x (...) Consequences). Policymakers should, in turn, take that information and use it to make value judgments about what is safe, what is dangerous, what is fair. To make these judgments, policymakers need to know the probabilities that experts assign to various possible outcomes in order to make risk management decisions to hedge against unsafe, dangerous and unfair outcomes. The climate debate needs to be reframed away from absolute costs—or benefits—into relative delay times to achieve specific caps or to avoid crossing specific agreed “dangerous” climate change thresholds. Even in most optimistic scenarios, CO2 will stabilize at a much higher concentration than it has reached today, and temperature will rise accordingly. It will take even longer for sea level rise from thermal expansion and the melting of polar ice to occur, but what is most problematic is that how we handle our emissions now and in the next five decades preconditions the sustainability of the next millennium. (shrink)
One central question of climate justice is how to fairly allocate the global emissions budget. Some commentators hold that the concept of fairness is hopelessly equivocal on this point. Others claim that we need a complete theory of distributive justice to answer the question. This paper argues to the contrary that, given only weak assumptions about fairness, we can show that fairness requires an allocation that is at least as prioritarian as the equal per capita view. Since even the (...) equal per capita view is more prioritarian than is politically feasible, fairness is univocal enough for all practical purposes. (shrink)
According to the Budget Approach proposed by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), allocating CO2 emission rights to countries on an equal per-capita basis would provide an ethically justified response to global climate change. In this paper, we will highlight four normative issues which beset the WBGU’s Budget Approach: (1) the approach’s core principle of distributive justice, the principle of equality, and its associated policy of emissions egalitarianism are much more complex than it initially appears; (2) the (...) “official” rationale for determining the size of the budget should be modified in order to avoid implausible normative assumptions about the imposition of permissible intergenerational risks; (3) the approach heavily relies on trade-offs between justice and feasibility which should be stated more explicitly; and (4) part of the approach’s ethical appeal depends on policy instruments which are “detachable” from the approach’s core principle of distributive justice. (shrink)
This article discusses German and European climate policy, inquiring mainly whether the ambitious goals the EU has set itself can be achieved via the instruments presently employed for the purpose and whether these instruments are efficient. In particular we discuss shortcomings of the European emission trading system, we further level criticism at energy policy measures, notably subsidization for renewable energy sources and the overlap with emissions trading. Further we argue that while 20% reduction of CO2 is feasible at a (...) reasonable cost, derived targets such as a share of 20% of renewable energy and 20% efficiency increase is expensive and not necessary. Finally, we scrutinize the latest climate-protection package proposed by Germany's environment minister. (shrink)
The prospect of dangerous climate change requires Humanity to limit the emission of greenhouse gases. This in turn raises the question of how the permission to emit greenhouse gases should be distributed and among whom. In this article the author criticises three principles of distributive justice that have often been advanced in this context. He also argues that the predominantly statist way in which the question is framed occludes some morally relevant considerations. The latter part of the article turns from (...) critique and advances a new way of addressing the problem. In particular, first, it proposes four key theses that should guide our normative analysis; and, second, it outlines how these four theses can be realised in practice. (shrink)
This paper examines what would be a fair distribution of the right to emit greenhouse gases. It distinguishes between views that treat the distribution of this right on its own (Isolationist Views) and those that treat it in conjunction with the distribution of other goods (Integrationist Views). The most widely held view treats adopts an Isolationist approach and holds that emission rights should be distributed equally. This paper provides a critique of this 'equal per capita' view, and the isolationist assumptions (...) on which it depends. It examines four arguments for this view, finding each wanting. It then presents two general challenges to the 'equal per capita' view, and, indeed, any views which treat the distribution of greenhouse gas emissions in isolation from other goods. It concludes by outlining and defending an alternative (Integrationist) approach to the distribution of rights to emit greenhouse gases. (shrink)
It has sometimes been claimed (usually without evidence) that the harm caused by an individual's participation in a greenhouse-gas-intensive economy is negligible. Using data from several contemporary sources, this paper attempts to estimate the harm done by an average American. This estimate is crude, and further refinements are surely needed. But the upshot is that the average American is responsible, through his/her greenhouse gas emissions, for the suffering and/or deaths of one or two future people.
Climate change and other harmful large-scale processes challenge our understandings of individual responsibility. People throughout the world suffer harms—severe shortfalls in health, civic status, or standard of living relative to the vital needs of human beings—as a result of physical processes to which many people appear to contribute. Climate change, polluted air and water, and the erosion of grasslands, for example, occur because a great many people emit carbon and pollutants, build excessively, enable their flocks to overgraze, or otherwise stress (...) the environment. If a much smaller number of people engaged in these types of conduct, the harms in question would not occur, or would be substantially lessened. However, the conduct of any particular person (and, in the case of climate change, of even quite large numbers of people) could make no apparent difference to their occurrence. My carbon emissions (and quite possibly the carbon emissions of much larger groups of people dispersed throughout the world) may not make a difference to what happens to anyone. When the conduct of some agent does not make any apparent difference to the occurrence of harm, but this conduct is of a type that brings about harm because many people engage in it, we can call this agent an overdeterminer of that harm, and their conduct overdetermining conduct. In this essay we explore the moral status of overdetermining harm. (shrink)
Should the current members of a community compensate the victims of their ancestor’s emissions of greenhouse gases? I argue that the previous generation of polluters may not have been morally responsible for the harms they caused.I also accept the view that the polluters’ descendants cannot be morally responsible for their ancestor’s harmful emissions. However, I show that, while granting this, a suitably defined notion of moral free-riding may still account for the moral obligation of the polluters’ descendants to (...) compensate the current victims of their ancestors’ actions. A concept of transgenerational free-riding is defined. Objections to the idea of using free-riding as part of a theory of justice are rejected. Two different views of moral free-riding are contrasted, with consequences for the amount of compensation to be exigible from the polluters’ descendants. Some final considerations are devoted to the possible relevance of this free-riding-based view for other issues of historical injustice. (shrink)
Arguing that issues of both emissions and subsistence should be comprehended within a single framework of justice, the proposal here is that this broader framework be developed by reference to the idea of "ecological space.".
The increasing prevalence of ecologically sustainable products in consumer markets, such as organic produce, are generally assumed to curtail anthropogenic impacts on the environment. Here I intend to present an alternative perspective on sustainable production by interpreting the relationship between recent rises in organic agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production. I construct two time series fixed-effects panel regressions to estimate how increases in organic farmland impact greenhouse gas emissions derived from agricultural production. My analysis finds that (...) the rise of certified organic production in the United States is not correlated with declines in greenhouse gas emissions derived specifically from agricultural production, and on the contrary is associated positively overall agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. To make sense of this finding, I embed my research within the conventionalization thesis. As a result I argue that the recent USDA certification of organic farming has generated a bifurcated organic market, where one form of organic farming works as a sustainable counterforce to conventional agriculture and the other works to increase the economic accessibility of organic farming through weakening practice standards most conducive to reducing agricultural greenhouse gas output. Additionally, I construct my own theoretical framework known as the displacement paradox to further interpret my findings. (shrink)
This article defends the idea of applying principles of corrective justice to the matter of climate change. In particular, it argues against the excusable ignorance objection, which holds that historical emissions produced at a time when our knowledge of climate change was insufficient ought to be removed from the equation when applying rectificatory principles to this context. In constructing my argument, I rely on a particular interpretation of rectificatory justice and outcome responsibility. I also address the individualism objection by (...) showing why we should view states as relevant agents of climate change. This argument is built on the assumption that states are institutions set up to coordinate and regulate human interaction, so as to protect their citizens from the unwanted consequences of such interaction. (shrink)
Emissions grandfathering holds that a history of emissions strengthens an agent’s claim for future emission entitlements. Though grandfathering appears to have been influential in actual emission control frameworks, it is rarely taken seriously by philosophers. This article presents an argument for thinking this an oversight. The core of the argument is that members of countries with higher historical emissions are typically burdened with higher costs when transitioning to a given lower level of emissions. According to several (...) appealing views in political philosophy (utilitarianism, egalitarianism, prioritarianism, and sufficientarianism) they are therefore entitled to greater resources, including emission entitlements, than those in similar positions but with lower emissions. This grandfathering may play an especially important role in allocating emission entitlements among rich countries. (shrink)
With the existing commitments to climate change mitigation, global warming is likely to exceed 2°C and to trigger irreversible and harmful threshold effects. The difference between the reductions necessary to keep the 2°C limit and those reductions countries have currently committed to is called the ‘emissions gap’. I argue that capable states not only have a moral duty to make voluntary contributions to bridge that gap, but that complying states ought to make up for the failures of some other (...) states to comply with this duty. While defecting or doing less than one’s fair share can be a good move in certain circumstances, it would be morally wrong in this situation. In order to bridge the emissions gap, willing states ought to take up the slack left by others. The paper will reject the unfairness-objection, namely that it is wrong to require agents to take on additional costs to discharge duties that are not primarily theirs. Sometimes what is morally right is simply unfair. (shrink)
Given that mitigating climate change is a large-scale global issue, what obligations do individuals have to lower their personal carbon emissions? I survey recent suggestions by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Dale Jamieson and offer models for thinking about their respective approaches. I then present a third model based on the notion of structural violence. While the three models are not mutually incompatible, each one suggests a different focus for mitigating climate change. In the end, I agree with Sinnott-Armstrong that people (...) have limited moral obligations to directly lower personal emissions, but I offer different reasons for this conclusion, namely that the structural arrangements of our lives place a limit on how much individuals can restrict their own emissions. Thus, individuals should focus their efforts on changing the systems instead (e.g., the design of cities, laws and regulation, etc.), which will lead to lower emissions on a larger scale. (shrink)
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues, on the relationship between individual emissions and climate change, that “we cannot claim to know that it is morally wrong to drive a gas guzzler just for fun” or engage in other inessential emissions-producing individual activities. His concern is not uncertainty about the phenomenon of climate change, nor about human contribution to it. Rather, on Sinnott-Armstrong’s analysis the claim of individual moral responsibility for emissions must be grounded in a defensible moral principle, yet no (...) principle withstands scrutiny. I argue thatthe moral significance of individual emissions is obscured by this critique. I offer a moral principle, the threshold-contribution principle, capable of withstanding Sinnott-Armstrong’s criticisms while also plausibly explaining what’s wrong with gas-guzzling joyrides and other gratuitous emissions-producing individual acts. (shrink)
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues, on the relationship between individual emissions and climate change, that “we cannot claim to know that it is morally wrong to drive a gas guzzler just for fun” or engage in other inessential emissions-producing individual activities. His concern is not uncertainty about the phenomenon of climate change, nor about human contribution to it. Rather, on Sinnott-Armstrong’s analysis the claim of individual moral responsibility for emissions must be grounded in a defensible moral principle, yet no (...) principle withstands scrutiny. I argue that the moral significance of individual emissions is obscured by this critique. I offer a moral principle, the threshold-contribution principle, capable of withstanding Sinnott-Armstrong’s criticisms while also plausibly explaining what’s wrong with gas-guzzling joyrides and other gratuitous emissions-producing individual acts. (shrink)
Currently living people cannot be said to be wronged because of the wrongless emissons of greenhouse gases by past people. According to the usual subjunctive-historical understanding of harm, currently living people cannot be said to be harmed by the impact of greenhouse emissions on their well-being. By relying on a subjunctive-threshold notion of harm we can justify conclusions about both the present generation’s duties not to violate the rights of future generations, and the present generation’s duties to compensate currently (...) living people for the harms inflicted upon them through the lasting impact of wrongless past harms. This interpretation supports a forward-looking understanding of the grounds of our relating to wrongless past harms. The significance of past harms lies in their consequences for the well-being of currently living and future people. The subjunctive-threshold notion of harm lends support to a standard of minimal, general, and universal justice. Those actors who are in a position to fulfill its requirements are under a duty to do so. Especially the rich and powerful countries ought to counteract the harmful impact of past greenhouse emissions. (shrink)
Global climate change raises profound questions for social and political theorists. The human impacts of climate change are sufficiently broad, and generally adverse, to threaten the rights and freedoms of existing and future members of all countries. These impacts will also exacerbate inequalities between rich and poor countries despite the limited role of the latter in their origins. Responding to these impacts will require the implementation of environmental and social policies that are both environmentally effective and consistent with the equality (...) and liberty of populations to which they are applied. This article considers whether global emissions trading, namely, the creation of a global market for tradable allowances conferring the right to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gas over a specified time period, is normatively defensible from a liberal egalitarian perspective. After a brief review of the theory and practice of emissions trading, a number of normative objections to the international trade in emissions allowances are analysed. These objections appeal to one, or a combination, of two claims. First, emissions trading schemes are likely to produce undesirable outcomes, such as environmental neglect, in the further future. I call these ?instrumental objections?. Second, emissions trading schemes violate non?consequential norms of justice and fairness. I call these ?intrinsic objections?. It is argued that, when combined, instrumental and intrinsic objections indicate that instituting a global network of emissions trading schemes, as envisioned by a number of parties to the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Accord, would be illegitimate in absence of significant procedural and consequential safeguards. (shrink)
It is commonly believed that the history of behavior that has contributed to the threat of climate change bears in a significant way on the obligations of current people. In particular, a number of philosophers have defended the Beneficiary Pays Principle, according to which those who have benefited from unjust emitting activity have a special obligation to bear costs of mitigation and adaptation. I claim that versions of the BPP that have been defended by others share a common problematic feature. (...) Specifically, they seem to limit the benefits that ground obligations under the principle to those that derive from unjust acts, and thereby implicitly deny that other ways in which individuals might benefit from injustice can ground similar duties. I argue that there is no plausible theoretical basis for this distinction. I conclude that we should take seriously a different type of principle that can be plausibly called a Beneficiary Pays Principle, according to which those who benefit from injustice, all things considered, are obligated to give up the unjust benefits that they enjoy. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to provide further clarity to the technical and policy difficulties associated with mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by identifying and distilling the core tensions which propagate and animate them. We argue that these complexities exist across four critical dimensions: the epistemological, the ethical, the political, and the practical. Adequately confronting the challenge of agricultural emissions will require improved transparency in emissions measurement, increased science communication, enhanced public participatory mechanisms, and the (...) integration of ethical deliberation in scientific and policy discussions. (shrink)
Although emissions trading is embraced as a means to curb carbon emissions and to incentivize the use of renewable energy, it is also heavily contested on ethical grounds. We will assess the main fundamental objections and possible counterarguments. Although we sympathize with some of these arguments, we argue that they are unpersuasive when an emissions trading system is well designed: emissions should be accounted ‘upstream,’ on the production rather than the consumer level. Moreover, allowances should be (...) auctioned, and regulatory measures could instigate the right kind of behavior towards the environment. (shrink)
This research concerns accountability by the U.S. electric utility industry for the financial impacts of cap-and-trade emissions allowance activity. We report findings from an extensive examination of disclosure practices for more than 100 facilities that were required to curb pollutant discharges and participate in a government-mandated program of emission allowance distribution and trading.
One major question in climate justice is whether developed countries’ historical emissions are relevant to distributing the burdens of mitigating climate change. To argue that developed countries should bear a greater share of the burdens of mitigation because of their past emissions is to advocate ‘historical accountability.’ Standard arguments for historical accountability rely on corrective justice. These arguments face important objections. By using the notion of a global emissions budget, however, we can reframe the debate over historical (...) accountability in terms of distributive justice. This paper argues that, given two defensible assumptions, distributive justice requires historical accountability. These assumptions are that the proper claimants on the emissions budgets are societies or states, not individuals, and that we should be allocating the entirety of the original, pre-industrial budget, rather than just the remainder. (shrink)
In this essay, I first consider what the implications of global climate change will be regarding issues of equity. Secondly, I consider two types of proposals which focus on sustainable emissions and subsistence rights respectively. Thirdly, I consider where these proposal types conflict. Lastly, I argue under plausible assumptions, these two proposals actually imply similar policies regarding global climate change.
Projections regarding future energy consumption and carbon emissions are crucial when the aim is to design policy for global emissions control. What is the different models’ take on the projections for global emissions and, in particular, China’s role in the global picture? Do they anticipate similar results? If not, why are the results different? What key parameters do they use, and how do they affect the final findings? This Article attempts to answer these questions and, starting from (...) there, to further analyze what it means for the challenge of China’s future emissions reduction potential and for the overall goal of global emissions reduction. (shrink)
Doit-on attendre des membres actuels d'une communauté qu'ils compensent les victimes des émissions de gaz à effet de serre causées par leurs ancêtres? Nous défendons l'idée que les générations précédentes de pollueurs peuvent très bien ne pas être mo-ralement responsables des dommages qu'elles ont causés. Et nous acceptons aussi la position selon laquelle les descendants d'une génération de pollueurs ne sauraient être tenus pour res-ponsables des dommages engendrés par leurs ancêtres. Il n'en subsiste pas moins que même si l'on effectue (...) ces deux concessions, il reste possible de défendre l'idée d'obligation des des-cendants d'une génération de pollueurs à compenser les victimes actuelles des actions de leurs ancêtres, et ce sur base d'une notion morale de free-riding transgénérationnel. Une définition est proposée et des objections au recours à une telle notion sont rejetées. Suit une comparaison de deux logiques possibles sous-tendant l'utilisation d'un concept de free-riding dans le cadre d'une théorie de la justice, ainsi qu'un examen de leurs implications pratiques. (shrink)
This paper prepares an investigation into environmental performance among multinational enterprises in the context of greenhouse gas emissions. The authors offer a theoretical background about how MNCs are faced with opposing choices with regard to standardising or adjusting their local environmental performances. Moreover, we outline a potential methodology for exploring the variation in MNCs’ levels of greenhouse gas emissions around the world.
Cet article propose deux mises à l’épreuve d’une modélisation du rôle du contexte dans l’interprétation des actes de parole. Selon notre modèle, les processus interprétatifs se déroulent généralement à partir d’hypothèses contextuelles sur le genre de discours pratiqué par le ou les énonciateur(s) du texte. Ces hypothèses sont activées à l’aide d’indices pluri-sémiotiques péritextuels et textuels. Un intertexte générique est alors mobilisé et oriente les processus interprétatifs, en particulier s’agissant de l’attribution des valeurs illocutoires et interactives probables des actes de (...) parole. La récurrence de ces valeurs constitue en retour des indices potentiels du genre de discours en cours. La première mise à l’épreuve de ces hypothèses s’appuie sur l’analyse « globale » de trois corpus : vingt-quatre interactions télévisées, leur péritexte et le péritexte des émissions les incluant. Cette analyse nous a permis d’observer des correspondances entre différentes configurations lexicales et morphosyntaxiques et quatre schémas d’actes de parole mis en évidence dans une précédente recherche. Dans un second temps, nous mettons en évidence certaines incidences interprétatives plus « locales » des prescriptions génériques, à l’aide d’une analyse des parcours probables de nos interprétations au palier de la période. (shrink)
Arguing that issues of both emissions and subsistence should be comprehended within a single framework of justice, the proposal here is that this broader framework be developed by reference to the idea of "ecological space.".
“Since the actions I perform as an individual only have an inconsequential effect on the threat of climate change,” a common argument goes, “it cannot be morally wrong for me to take my car to work everyday or refuse to recycle.” This argument has received a lot of scorn from philosophers over the years, but has actually been defended in some recent articles. A more systematic treatment of a central set of related issues shows how maneuvering around these issues is (...) no easy philosophical task. In the end, it appears, the argument from inconsequentialism indeed is correct in typical cases, but there are also important qualificatory considerations. (shrink)
Climate change can be interpreted as a unique case of historical injustice involving issues of both intergenerational and global justice. We split the issue into two separate questions. First, how should emission rights be distributed? Second, who should come up for the costs of coping with climate change? We regard the first question as being an issue of pure distributive justice and argue on prioritarian grounds that the developing world should receive higher per capita emission rights than the developed world. (...) This is justified by the fact that the latter already owns a larger share of benefits associated with emission generating activities because of its past record of industrialisation. The second question appears to be an issue of compensatory justice. After defining what we mean by compensation, we show that different kinds of compensatory principles run into problems when used to justify payments by historical emitters of the North to people suffering from climate change in the South. As an alternative, we propose to view payments from wealthy countries for adaptation to climate change in vulnerable countries rather as a measure based on concerns of global distributive justice. (shrink)