Conference article

Climate Change and Responsibility to Futere Generations: What Normative Questions Should we Address?

Robert Heeger
Utrecht University, Ethics Institute, The Netherlands

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Published in: Proceedings from the 50th Societas Ethica Annual Conference 2013. Climate Change; Sustainability; and an Ethics of an Open Future. August 22-25; 2013; Soesterberg; The Netherlands

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 98:2, p. 17-24

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Published: 2014-04-24

ISBN: 978-91-7519-289-5

ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


This paper deals with the problem of moral responsibility i view of climate change. It assumes that we have a responsibility to future generations; and it inquires what this responsibility implies. The leading idea is that in order to determine what implications responsibility to future generations has; we need to consider what normative questions we should ask about climate change and about our response to it. Four normative questions are discussed. 1. How should we respond to uncertainty? Should we apply cost-benefit analysis in order to cope with uncertainty? 2. How should we evaluate the emission of greenhouse gases? Given that the effects of emissions will be bad; should we judge that we as emitters harm the receivers and by that do them an injustice? 3. How should we compare present costs and future benefits? Should we give little or much weight to the benefits and well-being of people in the further future? 4. How should we take heed of human rights? Should we try to avoid the adverse outcomes of a cost-benefit approach by adopting a human rights approach that specifies minimum thresholds to which all human beings are entitled?


Uncertainty. Cost-benefit analysis. Duty of justice. Future benefits. Human rights approach


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