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Environmental Values

Ethics and Climate Change: A Commentary on MacCracken, Toman and Gardiner

Peter Singer

Environmental Values 15(2006): 415-422. doi: 10.3197/096327106778226239


Climate change is an ethical issue, because it involves the distribution of a scarce resource - the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb our waste gases without producing consequences that no one wants. Various principles might be used to decide what distribution is just. This commentary argues that on any plausible principle, the industrialised nations should be doing much more than they are doing now, and much more than they are required to do by the Kyoto protocol, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The commentary also responds specifically to some issues raised by MacCracken, Toman and Gardiner, including feasibility, the discount rate, and grounds for pessimism.

KEYWORDS: Ethics, climate change, justice, scarce resources, discount rate

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Values in the Economics of Climate Change. Michael Toman

Climate Change Discussions in Washington: A Matter of Contending Perspectives. Michael C. MacCracken

A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption. Stephen M. Gardiner

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Why Worry About Climate Change? A Research Agenda. Richard S.J. Tol

Wrongful Harm to Future Generations: The Case of Climate Change.Marc D. Davidson

Moderate Emissions Grandfathering. Carl Knight

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