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Environmental Values

Climate Change and Political Philosophy: Who Owes What to Whom?

Joerg Chet Tremmel

Environmental Values 22 (2013): 725-749. doi: 10.3197/096327113X13781997646539


Climate change poses a serious problem for established ethical theories. There is no dearth of literature on the subject of climate ethics that break down the complexity of the issue, thereby enabling one to arrive at partial conclusions such as: 'historical justice demands us to do this...' or 'intergenerational justice demands us to do that...'. In contrast, this article attempts to face up to this complexity, that is: to end with a synthesis of the arguments into what can be considered to be the most reasonable and fairest approach to the politics of climate change on a global scale. A significant part of the paper is devoted to the questions whether or not a) historical emissions and b) population changes are relevant to how emissions rights should be distributed. I discuss the merits and drawbacks of each perspective and briefly outline the normative justifications.


Climate change; climate ethics; political theory; distributive justice; international justice; intergenerational justice; historical justice; population growth

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

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

Disagreement and Responses to Climate Change Graham Long

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Education for Sustainable Development. Isis Brook

Who Should Pay for Climate Adaptation? Public Attitudes and the Financing of Flood Protection in Florida. Samuel Merrill, Jack Kartez, Karen Langbehn, Frank Muller-Karger, Catherine J. Reynolds

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