Justice and Climate Change

Letter or Credit/No Credit

Global climate change is among the greatest global political challenges of our time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2014 that the warming of Earth's climate system is a certainty and that it is highly likely that human influence is the dominant cause of climate change. Without action to combat climate change, the effects will worsen and could become catastrophic within a century. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the world. Communities in low lying deltas and islands have been relocated or are facing relocation due to rising sea levels. Increased droughts, storm surges, and floods threaten the lives, health and basic needs of people around the world: poor communities are particularly vulnerable. Human-caused climate change raises many questions of justice: First, is it morally wrong to emit greenhouse gases, the major cause of climate change? Is it unfair for wealthy high emitters to continue emitting given the risks of climate change to other people? What priority should be given to the wellbeing of future generations given the costs of reducing GHGs to the current generations? Finally, despite a scientific consensus about climate change's human origins, there is deep political disagreement about the facts about climate change and its alleged human-origins, especially in the United States. How should the government go about making decisions in light of these disagreements; what role should scientific expertise play in democratic deliberations? This course considers justice and climate change across these four dimensions: corrective justice, distributive justice, intergenerational justice, and procedural justice. Our discussions, reading, and writings will work back and forth between the issue of climate change and broader questions within political philosophy. The course is designed to help students develop and practice the skills needed to think and read critically, to communicate effectively across differences through speaking and writing, and to construct arguments that can withstand scrutiny. Students of any discipline are welcome and encouraged to attend. No philosophical background required or presupposed.