Monthly Archives: December 2011

Emissions rights, sustainability, and the ethics of climate change

Here are two more posts at talkingphilosophy in a series on the changing facts of climate change — there’s one on emissions histories, one on equal per capita shares and another about sustainability arguments for action.  The general line is that the facts are shifting around, and I think that’s doing something to the moral dimension of climate change.  The posts are from a talk I gave in Utrecht earlier this month, and you can watch a video of that here if you can stand it.

The second post mentions Aubrey Meyer, the man behind contraction and convergence, and I was happily startled to see him weigh in a bit in the comments.


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Filed under climate change, ethics, philosophy, talks/events

Climate ethics: does history matter?

I gave a talk in Utrecht this weekend, as part of a series called ‘Rights to a Green Future‘. I was asked to do the usual number on climate justice, but rather than just dust off an old talk, I decided to have another look at the emerging science of climate change, just in time for the Durban talks.

I ended up saying that the usual arguments for action on climate change are shifting around, because both our grip on the facts of climate change, and in some sense the facts themselves, are shifting around too. I’ll run shortened versions of each argument past you in a series of three blog posts – one about arguments for action based on cumulative emissions, one about the argument for equal emissions rights now, and the last on arguments for a sustainable future. They’ll all be posted at Talking philosophy.

Here’s the first, on arguments from emissions histories.

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Filed under climate change, ethics, talks/events

Strings attached

I reviewed a book called Strings Attached:  untangling the ethics of incentives  by Ruth Grant for the Times Higher EducationYou can read it here.  Part of the main argument of the book, which I think does make sense, is that incentives are not just innocuous, voluntary trades, but tools some people use to get other people to do what they want them to do.  Like persuasion and coercion, an incentive can be used in morally suspect ways.

The book goes into a little detail about why it is that incentives can sometimes backfire.  It helped me to understand why I’ve always been annoyed when offered a loyalty card along with my coffee, and why I’ve always been suspicious of governmental incentive schemes.  An incentive is a way to push you into action without reasoning with you, and that can be, in its own very particular way, seriously insulting.

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Filed under ethics, journalism