About this topic
Summary Climate change threatens to create serious risks, ranging from economic risks to increased risk of death and disease to the complete annihilation of small island states. The field of climate ethics (also known as "climate justice") includes questions about how global society should respond to the creation of such risks and who, exactly, should take responsibility for which parts of that response. Major issues include: How aggressively should society reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? How should the burden of achieving those reductions be distributed across and within nations? What role should adaptation play in responding to climate change? Should high emitters pay damages to affected parties? What responsibilities, if any, does climate change impose on individuals? Because climate change is unfolding on a global scale over long periods of time, and because it involves complex issues of politics, science, economics, and technology, answering these questions requires drawing on moral and political philosophy, philosophy of science and epistemology, philosophy of economics, and philosophy of technology, along with a range of other disciplines.
Key works The seminal review of climate ethics is still Gardiner 2004. For collections of key papers on various aspects of climate ethics, see Gardiner et al 2010, which compiles important papers from the first two decades of the field; Arnold 2011, which includes new papers on important issues in climate ethics; and Shue 2014, which collects major papers from one of the most important voices in climate ethics. Important monographs in climate ethics include Gardiner 2011, in which Gardiner delves more deeply into the structure of the moral problems raised by climate change; Broome 2012 and Moellendorf 2014, in which Broome and Moellendorf articulate their respective answers to key questions in climate ethics; and Vanderheiden 2008, in which Vanderheiden addresses issues of climate justice from the perspective of political theory. On the question of individual responsibility for climate change, see Sinnott-Armstrong 2005 (reprinted in Gardiner et al 2010); Hiller 2011, a reply to Sinnott-Armstrong; and for a different approach, Jamieson 2007 (also reprinted in Gardiner et al 2010).
Introductions Chapter 2 of Singer 2002 includes a highly accessible introduction to some key moral issues raised by climate change, suitable for beginning undergraduates. More advanced undergraduates might start with Hayward 2012. Graduate students and professionals looking for a concise survey of climate ethics should consider  Moellendorf 2015. Those looking for more detail, including relevant scientific and economic background, will find it in Gardiner 2004Broome 2012 provides an accessible book-length overview many key issues in climate ethics, along with a primer on climate science and climate economics. For an overview of the literature on climate change and individual responsibilities, see Fragnière 2016.
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  1. The Concept of 'ubuntu' in African Environmental Ethics Vis-a-Vis the Problem of Climate Change.Gabriel Ayayia - manuscript
    Climate change is a global environmental issue that threatens humanity and the concept of 'Ubuntu' which means 'humanness' would be useful in the conversation for climate change mitigation and adaptation. With the rising global temperature changes to climate, the paper reflects on some critical questions such as: how can African environmental ethics make an epistemic contribution to the conversation on climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies? I argue that the issue of climate change is a problem rooted in anthropocentric activities, (...)
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  2. Great Expectations: Challenges to Implementing Climate Policies in Latin America and the Caribbean.Pablo Cristóbal Jiménez Lobeira - manuscript
    The Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is a distinct geographic, economic and cultural area with a place in the climate change landscape. LAC has suffered the impacts of climate change at a level disproportionate to the amount of emissions it produces. Awareness of this experience, in addition to factors such as the region’s large young population, increasing middle class, vast natural resources and considerable economic growth potential provide reasons to hope LAC can implement significant climate change policies to (...)
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  3. Self Deception and Happiness.Talya D. Osseily - manuscript
    The argument in this essay will be divided into two parts: utilitarian and virtue ethics, where each party will agree or disagree with the idea that self-deception leads to happiness, taking climate change and meat production as examples to support their claims.
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  4. Peer-reviewed climate change research has a transparency problem. The scientific community needs to do better.Adam Pollack, Jentry E. Campbell, Madison Condon, Courtney Cooper, Matteo Coronese, James Doss-Gollin, Prabhat Hegde, Casey Helgeson, Jan Kwakkel, Corey Lesk, Justin Mankin, Erin Mayfield, Samantha Roth, Vivek Srikrishnan, Nancy Tuana & Klaus Keller - manuscript
    Mission-oriented climate change research is often unverifiable. Therefore, many stakeholders look to peer-reviewed climate change research for trustworthy information about deeply uncertain and impactful phenomena. This is because peer-review signals that research has been vetted for scientific standards like reproducibility and replicability. Here we evaluate the transparency of research methodologies in mission-oriented computational climate research. We find that only five percent of our sample meets the minimal standard of fully open data and code required for reproducibility and replicability. The widespread (...)
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  5. Precautionary Paralysis.J. E. H. Simon - manuscript
    A brief examination of the self-negating quality of the precautionary principle within the context of environmental ethics, and its consequent failure, as an ethical guide, to justify large-scale regulation of atmospheric cabon dioxide emissions.
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  6. A Pin and a Balloon: Anthropic Fragility Increases Chances of Runaway Global Warming.Alexey Turchin - manuscript
    Humanity may underestimate the rate of natural global catastrophes because of the survival bias (“anthropic shadow”). But the resulting reduction of the Earth’s future habitability duration is not very large in most plausible cases (1-2 orders of magnitude) and thus it looks like we still have at least millions of years. However, anthropic shadow implies anthropic fragility: we are more likely to live in a world where a sterilizing catastrophe is long overdue and could be triggered by unexpectedly small human (...)
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  7. Is geoengineering the ‘lesser evil’?Stephen Gardiner - manuscript
    Environmental Research Web, April 18, 2007.
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  8. Climate Change Denial and Corporate Environmental Responsibility.Mansoor Afzali, Gonul Colak & Sami Vähämaa - forthcoming - Journal of Business Ethics:1-29.
    This paper examines whether corporate environmental responsibility is influenced by regional differences in climate change denial. While there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is happening, recent surveys still indicate widespread climate change denial across societies. Given that corporate activity causing climate change is fundamentally rooted in individual beliefs and societal institutions, we examine whether local perceptions about climate change matter for firms’ engagement in environmental responsibility. We use climate change perception surveys conducted in the U.S. to (...)
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  9. Is Extinction Risk Mitigation Uniquely Cost-Effective? Not in Standard Population Models.Gustav Alexandrie & Maya Eden - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    What socially beneficial causes should philanthropists prioritize if they give equal ethical weight to the welfare of current and future generations? Many have argued that, because human extinction would result in a permanent loss of all future generations, extinction risk mitigation should be the top priority given this impartial stance. Using standard models of population dynamics, we challenge this conclusion. We first introduce a theoretical framework for quantifying undiscounted cost-effectiveness over the long term. We then show that standard population models (...)
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  10. The Relationship between International Political Community and Civil Society Concerning Environment Protection and the Struggle Against Climate Change.Valeria Barbi & Marco Borraccetti - forthcoming - Governare la Paura. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.
    The paper’s aim is to retrace the history of climate change through its definition and the process of negotiation aroused from the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC). After a brief description of this institution, the basic principles beneath the whole system of environment protection and the struggle against climate change will be presented. The intention is to demonstrate how, despite the undeniable advancements of the latest decades, the international legislative framework, even supported by the (...)
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  11. Beyond the Ramsey model for climate change assessments.S. Baum - forthcoming - Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics.
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  12. You Can’t Have Your Steak and Call for Political Action on Climate Change, Too.Justin Bernstein - forthcoming - Journal of Value Inquiry:1-21.
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  13. On individual and shared obligations: in defense of the activist’s perspective.Gunnar Björnsson - forthcoming - In Mark Budolfson, Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), Philosophy and Climate Change. Oxford University Press.
    We naturally attribute obligations to groups, and take such obligations to have consequences for the obligations of group members. The threat posed by anthropogenic climate change provides an urgent case. It seems that we, together, have an obligation to prevent climate catastrophe, and that we, as individuals, have an obligation to contribute. However, understood strictly, attributions of obligations to groups might seem illegitimate. On the one hand, the groups in question—the people alive today, say—are rarely fully-fledged moral agents, making it (...)
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  14. Global Warming, Hybrid Technology, and Carbon Emissions.Ian P. Bork, Jonathan Garfinkel & Bruce Lusignan - forthcoming - Ethics.
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  15. The social cost of carbon, humility, and overlapping consensus on climate policy.Mark Budolfson - forthcoming - In Jonathan H. Adler (ed.), Climate Liberalism: Perspectives on Liberty, Property, and Pollution, Palgrave.
    At first glance, it may seem that climate policy based on estimates of the social cost of carbon (SCC) presupposes a set of controversial assumptions, especially about what detailed knowledge regulators have about the impacts of climate change, and what the proper role of government and policy is in responding to those impacts. However, I explain why the SCC-based approach need not actually have these problematic presuppositions as well as why SCC estimates may provide the best guide to climate policy (...)
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  16. Geoengineering and Climate Change.W. C. G. Burns & J. Blackstock (eds.) - forthcoming - Cambridge University Press.
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  17. 'Distributive Justice and Climate Change'.Simon Caney - forthcoming - In Serena Olsaretti (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice. Oxford University Press.
    This paper discusses two distinct questions of distributive justice raised by climate change. Stated very roughly, one question concerns how much protection is owed to the potential victims of climate change (the Just Target Question), and the second concerns how the burdens (and benefits) involved in preventing dangerous climate change should be distributed (the Just Burden Question). In Section II, I focus on the first of these questions, the Just Target Question. The rest of the paper examines the second question, (...)
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  18. Climate Change Adaptation and the Back of the Invisible Hand.H. Clark Barrett & Josh Armstrong - forthcoming - Philosophical Transactions B.
    We make the case that scientifically accurate and politically feasible responses to the climate crisis require a complex understanding of human cultural practices of niche construction that moves beyond the adaptive significance of culture. We develop this thesis in two related ways. First, we argue that cumulative cultural practices of niche construction can generate stable equilibria and runaway selection processes that result in long-term existential risks within and across cultural groups. We dub this the back of the invisible hand. Second, (...)
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  19. Beyond Ideal Theory: Foundations for a Critical Rawlsian Theory of Climate Justice.Paul Clements & Paul Formosa - forthcoming - New Political Science:1-20.
    Rawls’s contractualist approach to justice is well known for its adoption of ideal theory. This approach starts by setting out the political goal or ideal and leaves it to non-ideal or partial compliance theory to map out how to get there. However, Rawls’s use of ideal theory has been criticized by Sen from the right and by Mouffe from the left. We critically address these concerns in the context of developing a Rawlsian approach to climate justice. While the importance of (...)
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  20. Consistent Desires and Climate Change.Daniel Coren - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    Philosophers have described the human perspective on climate change as a perfect moral storm. I take a new angle on that storm: I argue that our relevant desires feature a particularly problematic case of seemingly consistent but genuinely inconsistent desires. We have, first, non-indexical desires such as a desire to (make the sacrifices necessary to) stop polluting our environment at some point. We have, second, indexical desires such as a desire not to (make the sacrifices necessary to) stop polluting our (...)
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  21. Climate Change and Business Ethics.Boudewijn de Bruin - forthcoming - Journal of Business Ethics.
    This article sketches ways in which business ethics should contribute to addressing the climate emergency. I consider some ways in which normative contributions to the debate on climate change and global warming have been defended, and how international thinking about environmental issues has moved from consequentialist to justice- and rights-based thinking. A recent case that came before the Hague District Court between a Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth, Milieudefensie, and Royal Dutch Shell (Milieudefensie v. Royal Dutch Shell), serves (...)
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  22. Shareholder Activism on Climate Change: Evolution, Determinants, and Consequences.Ivan Diaz-Rainey, Paul A. Griffin, David H. Lont, Antonio J. Mateo-Márquez & Constancio Zamora-Ramírez - forthcoming - Journal of Business Ethics:1-30.
    We study 944 shareholder proposals submitted to 343 U.S. firms on climate change issues during 2009–2022. We use logistic and two-stage regression to estimate the propensity for a firm to be targeted or subjected to a vote at the annual general meeting and, for voted proposals, the determinants of that vote. We also examine whether climate-related proposals affect investor returns and how they relate to firms’ future environmental performance and greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to a matched sample, we first find (...)
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  23. Let's talk about the weather: Decentering democratic debate about climate change.Tom D. Dillehay - forthcoming - Hypatia.
  24. The Fifth Planet.Loren Eiseley - forthcoming - Techne.
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  25. 21st century climate change in the middle east.Jason P. Evans - forthcoming - Climatic Change.
    This study examined the performance and future predictions for the Middle East produced by 18 global climate models participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report. Under the Special Report on Emission Scenarios A2 emissions scenario the models predict an overall temperature increase of ~1.4 K by mid-century, increasing to almost 4 K by late-century for the Middle East. In terms of precipitation the southernmost portion of the domain experiences a small increase in precipitation due to the (...)
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  26. Airborne transport of aerosols into the south atlantic ocean: assessment of sources, horizontal fluxes, iron fertilizing potential and impact on climate.Diego Gaiero - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  27. Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption.Stephen M. Gardiner - forthcoming - Environmental Ethics.
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  28. Kopenawa’s Shamanic Parrhesia: Wasp Spirits vs. White Climate Epidemic.Joshua M. Hall - forthcoming - Parrhesia.
    In a 2014 article in The Guardian, an Indigenous shaman of the Yanomami people of the Amazon rainforest named Davi Kopenawa offers a devastating critique of white society. It is formed of excerpts from multiple interviews, which form the basis of his memoir The Falling Sky, compiled and translated by his French anthropologist collaborator Bruce Albert. Here I bring the dual lenses of philosophy and dance studies to explore how Kopenawa’s lifelong interaction with white people facilitated his reworking of Yanomami (...)
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  29. The Meaning of Climate Change: An Interview with Dipesh Chakrabarty.Travis Holloway & Dipesh Chakrabarty - forthcoming - Philosophy Today.
    A wide-ranging interview with Dipesh Chakrabarty, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Chicago and author of The Climate of History in a Planetary Age and Provincializing Europe. Dipesh Chakrabarty is one of the leading thinkers on climate change in the humanities. He is responsible for introducing concepts like the "Anthropocene," "geological force," and "species history" into history, philosophy, and literary theory.
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  30. Climate Change, Uncertainty and Policy.Jeroen Hopster - forthcoming - Springer.
    While the foundations of climate science and ethics are well established, fine-grained climate predictions, as well as policy-decisions, are beset with uncertainties. This chapter maps climate uncertainties and classifies them as to their ground, extent and location. A typology of uncertainty is presented, centered along the axes of scientific and moral uncertainty. This typology is illustrated with paradigmatic examples of uncertainty in climate science, climate ethics and climate economics. Subsequently, the chapter discusses the IPCC’s preferred way of representing uncertainties and (...)
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  31. Who has a moral responsibility to slow climate change?Säde Hormio - forthcoming - Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche.
    Henry Shue’s latest book, The Pivotal Generation: Why We Have a Moral Responsibility to Slow Climate Change Right Now, is an excellent read, both clear and comprehensive. It is written in a way that makes it accessible to philosophers and non-philosophers alike. The book argues persuasively that the people alive today must take immediate and drastic action to tackle climate change, as the current decade will be crucial for determining how severe the impacts will become. Shue warns how a sharp (...)
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  32. The moral inefficacy of carbon offsetting.Tyler M. John, Amanda Askell & Hayden Wilkinson - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    Many real-world agents recognise that they impose harms by choosing to emit carbon, e.g., by flying. Yet many do so anyway, and then attempt to make things right by offsetting those harms. Such offsetters typically believe that, by offsetting, they change the deontic status of their behaviour, making an otherwise impermissible action permissible. Do they succeed in practice? Some philosophers have argued that they do, since their offsets appear to reverse the adverse effects of their emissions. But we show that (...)
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  33. Lake level responses to semi-arid climate and their social impacts in Turkey.Nizamettin Kazancı - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  34. Temporal Discounting and Climate Change.J. Paul Kelleher - forthcoming - In Nina Emery (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Time. Routledge.
    Temporal discounting is a technical operation in climate change economics. When discount rates are positive, economic evaluation treats future benefits as less important than equivalent present benefits. This chapter explains and critically evaluates four different reasons economists have given for tying discount rates to the interest rates we observe in real-world markets. I suggest that while philosophers have correctly criticized three of these reasons, their criticisms of the fourth miss the mark. This is because philosophers have not taken heed of (...)
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  35. Environment, ethics and public health: the climate change dilemma.A. Kessel, C. Stephens & A. Dawson - forthcoming - Public Health Ethics: Key Concepts and Issues in Policy and Practice:154--173.
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  36. Ethics of climate change essay contest.P. Kuhn - forthcoming - Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics.
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  37. The Goods of Priceless Values: Realizing Equitable Retail Markets for Solar Self-Service.Eloy LaBrada - forthcoming - Georgetown Environmental Law Review.
  38. Climate Ethics for Climate Action.Andrew Light - forthcoming - Environmental Ethics: What Really Matters.
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  39. New Solar System Force, Decay of Gravity, and Expansion of the Solar System.Charles William Bill Lucas Jr & Joseph J. Smulsky - forthcoming - Foundations of Science.
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  40. Climate–Fire–Vegetation interactions during the Late Holocene in Las Yungas upper montane forest, Lagunas de Yala. Northwestern Argentina.Liliana Concepción Lupo - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  41. Holocene climate change and human settlement on the semiarid coast of Chile (32ºS).Antonio Maldonado - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  42. Framing UN Human Rights Discourses on Climate Change: The Concept of Vulnerability and its Relation to the Concepts of Inequality and Discrimination.Monika Mayrhofer - forthcoming - International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique:1-27.
    The concept of vulnerability is widely used in human rights policy documents, reports, and case law focusing on the impacts of climate change on human rights. In academic discussions, the concept, however, has also sparked a discussion on its benefits and challenges for the advancement of human rights, especially concerning the principles of equality and non-discrimination. This article aims at contributing to this debate from a frame-analytical perspective. In social sciences, frame-analysis is a form of discourse analysis which focuses on (...)
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  43. Grounding Distributive Justice on an Ideal Family: What Familial Norms Entail for Inequalities.Thaddeus Metz - forthcoming - In Ingrid Robeyns (ed.), Economic and Ecological Inequalities from a Global Perspective: Pluralising Political Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    An idea salient in the African and East Asian philosophical traditions is that the right sort of socio-political interaction would be similar to the intuitive ways that family members ought to relate to each other. Applying this perspective to economic and ecological inequalities, I articulate some principles implicit in healthy familial relationships, show what they entail for certain aspects of distributive justice at the national level, and contend that the implications are plausible relative to competing theories such as utilitarianism, Rawlsianism, (...)
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  44. Public Participation in International Climate Change Law: Analysis of the Impacts of Uncertainty Related to Climate Response Measures on the Public.Dieudonné Mevono Mvogo - forthcoming - Jus Cogens:1-17.
    Climate change harmfully affects social and natural systems. These outcomes adversely affect the human and natural systems, resulting in adopting related-response measures whose implementation yields similar outcomes, especially when poorly designed. Climate-related projects, actions, and policies cause harmful environmental impacts, even though the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and its subsequent instruments urge parties, when dealing with climate change, to employ methods that preserve the quality of the environment. Few studies have established the effects of these environmentally, economically, culturally, (...)
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  45. Book Review: Philosophical Foundations of Climate Change Policy, Joseph Heath. Oxford University Press, 2021, viii + 339 pages. [REVIEW]Kian Mintz-Woo - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
    Joseph Heath sometimes plays the role of a gadfly in climate and environmental ethics. He often defends conventional, economics-focused claims which rub many philosophers the wrong way—claims that are at the heart of issues raised in these pages, claims such as that discounting is justifiable, growth is good, or cost-benefit analysis is appropriate in liberal democracies. I think we can all agree that sophisticated defences of conventional positions play an important part in the ecosystem. For philosophers, a gadfly can challenge (...)
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  46. Book Review: Philosophical Foundations of Climate Change Policy, Joseph Heath. Oxford University Press, 2021. [REVIEW]Kian Mintz-Woo - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-6.
    [Book Review] Joseph Heath sometimes plays the role of a gadfly in climate and environmental ethics. He often defends conventional, economics-focused claims which rub many philosophers the wrong way—claims that are at the heart of issues raised in these pages, claims such as that discounting is justifiable, growth is good, or cost-benefit analysis is appropriate in liberal democracies. I think we can all agree that sophisticated defences of conventional positions play an important part in the ecosystem. For philosophers, a gadfly (...)
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  47. Political Legitimacy, Authoritarianism, and Climate Change.Ross Mittiga - forthcoming - American Political Science Review.
    Is authoritarian power ever legitimate? The contemporary political theory literature—which largely conceptualizes legitimacy in terms of democracy or basic rights—would seem to suggest not. I argue, however, that there exists another, overlooked aspect of legitimacy concerning a government’s ability to ensure safety and security. While, under normal conditions, maintaining democracy and rights is typically compatible with guaranteeing safety, in emergency situations, conflicts between these two aspects of legitimacy can and often do arise. A salient example of this is the COVID-19 (...)
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  48. The last 25, 000 years of vegetation and climate history in NW Patagonia.Patricio I. Moreno - forthcoming - Laguna.
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  49. From Food to Climate Justice: How Motivational Barriers Impact Distributive Justice Strategies for Change.Samantha Noll - forthcoming - In Fausto Corvino & Tiziana Andina (eds.), Global Climate Justice: Theory and Practice. London, UK:
    Climate change is one of the most important and complex problems of the modern age. The sheer scale of the harm produced, coupled with the fact that the changes are human-induced, necessitates a duty to prevent climate-induced impacts. There is a growing literature exploring how costs and benefits should be shared at national, state and generational levels. This chapter adds to this literature by exploring how normatively guided plans could be hindered by barriers beyond distributive justice frameworks and their subsequent (...)
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  50. Populism as an act of storytelling : analyzing the climate change narratives of Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg as populist truth-tellers.Johan Nordensvärd & Markus Ketola - forthcoming - Environmental Politics 31 (5):861-882.
    We propose that populism is a storytelling performance that involves a charismatic truth-teller and a populist narrative frame. Populist narratives are sensemaking devices that guide people in areas of contestation, uncertainty and complexity where decisions cannot solely rely on rational and formal processes. Populist truth-tellers apply a particular narrative frame that pits people against the elite when interpreting complex problems such as climate change. The aim of this article is one of theory generating, using the cases of Donald Trump and (...)
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