PHIL 224, Week 12: Climate change ethics


Special request for students who got 9/9 on assignment 2 using Empathica: if you don't mind, please email me your value maps so I can use them for an article I'm writing on environmental ethics.

Blog on zombie ethics.

Reading for week 12 is not in text: Gardiner, "Ethics and Global Climate Change"

Atlas of emissions

Dec. 1, Exam 3, in class. No final exam.

Structure: same as exam 1, 4 short answers and short essay. Only weeks 9-12 are covered.

Review questions are available at the end of the lecture notes.

How to do well:

  1. Come to class and pay attention. Ask questions.
  2. Do not use laptops or other electronics, for these reasons.
  3. Read the text carefully and critically.
  4. Prepare detailed answers to review questions.

Why Climate Change is a Hard Scientific Problem

  1. Potentially disastrous consequences
  2. Uncertainty about future developments
  3. Conflicting interests: developed vs. developing countries
  4. Problems of getting countries to agree: Durban conference 2011

Reasons for Denying the Problem

  1. Motivated interest: politicians don't want to use government actions to limit economic activity.
  2. Worry-driven inference avoidance: ordinary people don't want to think about consequences of climate change.

Why Climate Change is a Hard Ethical problem

  1. Tragedy of the commons: if all countries pursue self-interest, everyone loses.
  2. Problem of future generations and discounting
  3. Problem of distribution of costs and benefits
  4. Problem of responsibilities for past actions

What is to be Done?

  1. International agreements to reduce carbon emissions
  2. Dramatic drop in use of fossil fuels
  3. Development of alternative energy sources
  4. Geoengineering

Review Questions for Week 12

  1. State and explain 4 reasons why climate change is a hard ethical problem.
  2. State and explain 4 plausible strategies for dealing ethically with climate change.
  3. Essay: From the ethical perspectives of consequences and rights, what should countries be doing about climate change?
    1. statement of at least two alternatives
    2. consequences pro and con, and evaluation
    3. rights and duties, pro and con, and evaluation
    4. overall evaluation.

Phil 224

Paul Thagard

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

This page updated Nov. 28, 2011