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Climate Change & Ethics : Where are we?

Climate Change and Ethics Symposium Banner

Date: March 25 and 26, 2022
PDF of Schedule and Program
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A virtual symposium hosted by Elisabeth Hildt and Kelly Laas of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology. 

In light of the slow progress being made to mitigate climate change, there is a need to reflect on the ethical considerations at play. How can ethics help structure the discussion and facilitate climate justice?

This symposium seeks to engage stakeholders in a debate around the ethical assumptions implicit in our discussions and actions around climate change.

This event will be held virtually, and there will be no charge for participation. To register, visit our Eventbrite site.

 

Schedule

All times are CST (Chicago time)

FRIDAY MARCH 25:
9:00 am: Elisabeth Hildt: Welcome and Introduction

9:10 -10:10 am: Session 1: Role of Ethics in the Climate Change Debate

 
Anna Peterson (University of Florida, USA): Values, Practices, and Consequences


Anthony Voisard, (Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Canada): Ethics in IPCC: Where Are We Now?

10:10-10:15 am: Break

10:15: Stephen Gardiner (University of Washington, USA): Climate Crisis and Institutional Denialism
(Speaker asked us to not post the recording)

11:05-11:15 am: Break



12:05-12:10 pm: Break

12:10-1:45 pm: Session 2: Ethics, Risk and Uncertainty


Anna Wedin (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden): Understanding Feasibility of Climate Change Goals and Actions

Andrea Giuseppe Ragno (Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Germany): The Role of Consensus in the latest IPCC


Eric Brown (International Business School Budapest, Hungary): Development for Climate Change and the Ethics of Risk

SATURDAY, MARCH 26:

8:00-8:50 am: Rainier Ibana (Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines): Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and Biology's "Ten Percent Law"

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8:50-8:55 am: Break

8:55-10:15 am: Session 3: Human Connection to Nature




Alexander Arridge (University of Oxford, United Kingdom): Ecotage as Other-Defence

10:15-10:25 am: Break

10:25-11:40: Session 4: A global perspective on responsibility and justice

Natasha Meerschwein (Texas State University, USA): “Who Gets the Bill?” Political Responsibility and the Climate Disaster

Fausto Corvino (Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Italy): The Polluter Pays Principle. Backward-looking or Forward-looking? Or Both?

Alina Anjum Ahmed (University of Georgia, USA): Colonialism, Conservation, and Epistemic Injustice

Jelena Belic (Leiden University, the Netherlands): Absolute Rights and Climate Change

11:40-11:50: Break

11:50 am-1:05 pm: Session 5: Considering Future Generations


Daan Keij, Boris van Meurs (Radboud University, the Netherlands): Direct Duties Toward Future Collectives

Marc Sanjaume-Calvet and Klaudijo Klaser (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain, and Università degli Studi di Trento, Italy): The Problem of Compliance to Rawls’ Just Saving Principle

Matthias Fritsch (Concordia University, Canada): Democratic Institutions, Future People, and the Climate Emergency

1:05 pm: Closing Remarks

Abstracts


Guest Speaker: Climate Crisis & Institutional Denialism
Stephen Gardiner (University of Washington, USA)

Currently, a key obstacle to effective climate action is the widespread failure to recognize and then confront the serious governance gap that arises for concern for future generations. In this talk, I set out my diagnosis, that we face a basic standing threat called the tyranny of the contemporary. I also propose a solution: a global constitutional convention aiming at producing intergenerational institutions with standing authority and a broad remit.

Stephen M. Gardiner is Professor of Philosophy and Ben Rabinowitz Endowed Professor of the Human Dimensions of the Environment at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is also Director of the Program on Ethics. His research focuses on global environmental problems, future generations and virtue ethics.

He is the author of A Perfect Moral Storm (Oxford, 2011), and co-author of Debating Climate Ethics (Oxford, 2016) and Dialogues on Climate Justice (Routledge, in press). He is also the editor of Virtue Ethics, Old and New (Cornell, 2005) and the Oxford Handbook of Intergenerational Ethics (Oxford, in press), and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics (Oxford, 2016), Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (Oxford, 2010) and The Ethics of “Geoengineering” the Global Climate: Justice, Legitimacy and Governance (Routledge, 2020).

He has published more than fifty articles and book chapters, including in leading journals such as Ethics, Ethics and International Affairs, Environmental Ethics, Journal of Political Philosophy, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy and Philosophy and Public Affairs. In 2021, he presented the Academy Lecture for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (Norway), and the Alan Saunders Lecture in Public Ethics at the Australasian Association for Philosophy (Australia), which was broadcast nationally by Australian Public Radio.


Guest Speaker: Climate, Ethics, and Energy: Critically Engaging with Justice Opportunities and Risks in Climate Action
Kirsten Jenkins (University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
 
The imperative of climate action is clear, yet we must be cautious. Progress towards climate targets in light of the climate emergency necessitates wide-ranging, rapid policy action that presents both opportunities and risks. There is the risk, in particular, that without attention to ethical tensions and trade-offs, our actions will either exacerbate pre-existing injustices, entrench new ones, or miss opportunities to resolve them altogether. In this regard, the climate emergency is one of both emissions and ethics. This presentation will summarise key approaches to unpacking these justice risks and critically engaging with discussions around climate change action. Given the centrality of energy production and use to the climate crisis, it will draw upon energy justice and Just Transitions thinking, using select case studies to illustrate the role of such concepts in just and low-carbon futures.
 
Dr. Kirsten Jenkins is an early career Lecturer in Energy, Environment and Society within the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS) group at the University of Edinburgh. Kirsten’s background is as a sustainable development and human geography scholar, with research and teaching interests that centre on energy justice; just transitions; energy policy; science, technology and innovations studies; transitions theory and sustainable energy provision and use.
 
As additional responsibilities, Kirsten coordinates the 2100-member Energy and Social Science Network and the Energy Justice JISC mailing list. She also serves as Managing Editor for the journal Energy Research & Social Science and Associate Fellow of the Durham Energy Institute at the University of Durham. Kirsten has published extensively in the fields of energy and social science and has worked on projects funded by the RCUK Energy Programme, Norwegian Research Council, CREDS and the ESRC.


Guest Speaker: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic and Biology’s “10 Percent Law”
Rainier Ibana (Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines)

Important lessons can be learned about the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the human beings’ relationship with nature from the confinement of human populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ascetic lifestyles imposed by the governments’ policies of lockdowns and quarantines minimized transportation costs, supported local economies, and relatively cleared the atmosphere from harmful pollutants that cause global warming. Aside from the formulation of negative injunctions to mitigate consumerism, however, carbon sinks that absorb waste products were cultivated by those who tried to cope with their internment by composting and gardening their surroundings. These lessons confirm Biology’s “Ten Percent Law” which states that consumers can receive only ten percent of energies from lower feeding levels while excess energies are released to the environment as entropy. When governments were caught flat-footed by the pandemic, civil society organizations, composed of and energized by discursive citizens, tried to meet the basic needs of the marginalized sectors of society by initiating community pantries and shared gardens that mediated the needs of both the urban poor and their rural counterparts. Their creative models for human development offer an alternative future governed by the mental (geistig) forces of “anti-entropy” instead of the neo-colonial regimes of extractive institutions and their enablers that are primarily motivated by the accumulation of power and money. Anti-entropy optimizes the inherent power of nature according to the thermodynamic laws of conservation and conversion of energy. These laws govern Biology’s Ten Percent Law. But they can be clearly illustrated by transposing the Daoist image of the relationship between “Yin and Yang” to the symbiotic relationship between human beings and the natural world.

Rainier A. Ibana teaches Ethics, Environmental Ethics, and Teaching Philosophy at Ateneo de Manila University. He is also Editor of Budhi: A Journal of Ideas and Culture. He was Chair of UNESCO”s COMEST Working group on Environmental Ethics (2013-2017), served as primary educator of UNESCO’s MOOC course on Climate Justice: Lessons from the Global South, (London: FutureLearn, 2017), and coordinated the Asia-Pacific section of UNESCO’s Philosophy Manual: A South-south Perspective (Paris, 2014). He is current President of PCYNAP: Philosophy for Children and Youth Network in the Asia-Pacific.

 


Session 1: Role of Ethics in the Climate Change Debate


Values, Practices, and Consequences
Anna Peterson (University of Florida, USA)

The conference call for papers asks us to identify the relevant concepts and principles in the ethics of climate change and reflect on how we might increase the practical impact of ethical principles. It asks, more specifically, “How can abstract principles like justice, responsibility, and sustainability be materialized?” These questions presume that there is a relatively simple relationship between principles, practices, and consequences. According to this model, we identify the ethical principles that are relevant to the problem, persuade people to apply them, and then reap the predicted practical impact. However, each of these three steps is far from straightforward. First, it is not always clear which principles are relevant; sometimes values are revealed in and through practical situations, rather than applied to them. Second, “materializing” concepts suggests a clear division between ideas, on the one hand, and material practices and structures, on the other. In fact, however, ideas, practices, and structures always exist in mutually transformative interactions; ideas are always already embodied in “real life.” Third, the practical impact of human actions are often hard to predict. Climate change itself is an example of unintended consequences – the aggregate of millions of actions that were not intended to create environmental crisis.

In order to think clearly about the ethical dimensions of climate change, we need to analyze the complex relations between values, practices, and consequences. Drawing on research in psychology, conservation behavior, and environmental ethics, this presentation identifies some of the factors that influence these relations, with a particular focus on the links between values and practices. I am particularly interested in the role of ideas in shaping environmental behavior and the ways ideas are related to other factors. In order to understand this role, we need to analyze the ways that values are already materialized in our everyday lives and the structures that shape them. We also need to keep in mind the collective, institutional context that shapes both individuals’ actions and their environmental impact. We cannot address climate change solely by influencing individual behavior, which means that individuals’ environmental principles may not be significant in the way that many ethicists and activists think they are.

This does not mean that ideas are irrelevant. However, we need to understand the factors that condition the creation and circulation of ideas, their influence on individual practices, and their concrete impact. My goal in this paper is to contribute to this conversation and help define a useful role for environmental ethicists in our collective effort to address the climate crisis.


What are the Relevant Concepts and Principles in the Ethics of Climate Change? How Can Their Practical Impact be Increased?
Peter A. Aboloje (Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria)

The term climate change simply refers to the observable long-term pattern of atmospheric or weather conditions in a particular region over a period of at least thirty years. These conditions include things like rains, sunshine, snow, windstorm, and even heat or cold temperature. They are observable phenomena because human beings are the ones with the most developed mental awareness amongst all living species and organisms that coexist on the earth, hence, man is able to observe them all. This takes place as humans interact with the physical environment in various activities that involve the soil, the air, the climate, and so on. In other words, according to the British botanist, Arthur George Tanslem who proposed the concept of the ecosystem, man rediscovers himself as belonging to nature and as an element of the ecosystem. Therefore, this scientific relationship puts man at the center of the issue of climate change and above all other considerations, the most important. Hence, when we talk about climate change we are ultimately talking about how the change in atmospheric or weather conditions affects human existence. This is important because, the change in the climate affects practically everything around man, from animals to the soil and the health or well-being of man. This invariably affects an agricultural activity which leads to a shortage in food supply and in general man's longevity on the earth.

All of the above reason is why over the recent years ethics has find its way in to the conversation of Climate Change as a mobilizing force, to steer up actions, facilitate arbitration, resolve conflicting interests, and establish priorities as it pertains to man's response to Climate Change. In this light ethics is regarded as a key element with the capacity to connect theory with practice, general principles with political will and global awareness with local actions. It is in recognition of this all-important facet of the conversation on Climate Change that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) came up with six ethical principles to guide man's response to the change in the Climate, namely; prevention of harm, precautionary approach, equity and justice, sustainable development, solidarity, and scientific knowledge and integrity in decision making.

Relating the issue of Climate Change to West Africa, particularly Nigeria, there has been a lack of adequate and appropriate response. It is therefore the aim of this paper to create awareness, inspire and give reasons to both policymakers and policy directors. This is so essential because oftentimes, policymakers which is the government often considers the discoveries and warnings of science about Climate Change as an over-exaggeration in the face of other daunting basic societal and economic concern.

The Nigeria situation in respect of weather patterns have interestingly become an issue of concern. The observable changes that have occurred in recent times have seen a direct adverse effect primarily on agricultural activities and health conditions. Within the last decade, the chronological pattern of weather conditions have become so inconsistent. The dry season as commonly called, characterized by the cool and dry breeze of the harmattan usually starts from around October to around March of the next year, followed by lots of rainfall till October. But the current experience is a distortion from this pattern such that when there are supposed to be rains, excessive heat condition is the case which extends even into the middle of the dry or harmattan season, and when the rains are supposed to start falling, drought is what is experienced for a longer unexpected period. This in turn affects the local farmer who observes weather patterns and conditions before commencing planting or harvesting. The overall spiral effect of this has the capacity to lead to many issues that cut across different facets of the social, political, ethical, medical and economic conditions of living. Hence, it is in a bid to address some of the challenges ranging from harm caused by possible food scarcity, regulation of mining, refinery and unregulated burning of fiscal fuel leading to pollution, and inequality in the distribution of health facilities to carter for health challenges caused by the different human activities that ultimately contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer as a result of climate change. In this way, efforts can be increased to ensure the prevention of harm principle prevents shortage of food, the precautionary approach principle regulates refinery and other fiscal fuel-burning activities appropriately, the equity and justice principle directed towards ensuring that localities that are severely affected by activities such as refinery and mining are provided with access to quality health care, the sustainable developments principle ensures that development achievement in the issues of Climate Change by one government administration are built upon by succeeding ones, and developing countries like Nigeria be at the forefront of collaborative efforts with developed countries to create awareness and embark on concrete plans towards managing Climate Changes through solidarity, and lastly, scientific knowledge is shared sufficiently among countries with a posture of integrity in decision making towards Climate Change.


Ethics in IPCC: Where Are We Now?
Anthony Voisard, (Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Canada)

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has been instrumental in shaping the research community in climate science and climate politics (Bolin, 2007). The work of this UN expert body on climate change benefits from a high visibility and an important capacity to influence climate negotiation processes both at the regional and global levels. In 2014, Working Group III 'Mitigation of Climate Change', with the contribution of several experts, including philosophers John Broome and Lukas Meyer (Broome, 2020), published the first chapter of the IPCC dealing substantially with ethics (Kolstad et al., 2014). We consider that the recent incorporation of ethics into the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC is a significant step forward in the recognition of climate ethics as a disciplinary field. But what does the concept "ethics" mean in the work of the IPCC? Based on a review of relevant passages from the official reports, we will address this question in this paper. We will first provide details on our methodological approach, as well as precision on data sources. The research results and their interpretation will then be presented. This will include a critique of a narrow conception of climate ethics divided between theory of justice and theory of value. In our view, the ethical category should be understood more comprehensively than what is presented in the main IPCC chapter on ethics. Other chapters and sections of the AR5 and AR6 that we have analyzed provide nevertheless important insights into the meanings of 'ethics'. We conclude that an increased focus on ethical reflection would provide additional insights into the work of the IPCC, which could only be beneficial in order to better equip the world's political decision-makers to whom are addressed these state of knowledge reports on climate change. Critical and empirical interpretation of 'ethics' in the work of the IPCC will support our pluralist reasoning.

Session 2: Ethics, Risk, and Uncertainty


To Mine or Not to Mine: The Diocese of Marbel and Tampakan Mining Operations of Xstrat-Smi in Tampakan South Cotabato
Minerva Lopez (Mindanao State University, Philippines)

Mining has been an issue for various nations and localities especially to those who have perished and still suffering brought about by the complications and disasters by mishandling of mining operations in various locations in the world. These disasters had resulted to many lives lost and homes destroyed. Thus, many organizations and entities took strong opposition to the operations of large mining companies in the Philippines in particular the Tampakan’s Sagittarius Mines copper mining operation. This paper sought to enlighten the readers as to how the role of the Diocese of Marbel took the helm of the battle to stop the mining operation in Tampakan sighting various dangers to the environment and the people living near the mines. Also, the role of the Diocese of Marbel as to how, through the Social Action Center of the Diocese, put up a fight to defend the communities to be educated to the realities of mining and the hazards it could bring to them.

This paper will employ key informant interview and documentary analysis pertinent to the research topic. This paper would like to encourage other stakeholders to stand up for the welfare of the environment and the communities who might be affected of these planned mining operation. This paper would like to surface that the encouragement to fight for the environment is the fight of all people who treasure the environment that we have and we must love.


Understanding Feasibility of Climate Change Goals and Actions
Anna Wedin (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)

Climate change goals and actions are often discussed with reference to their feasibility. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5), in which emission pathways for limiting global warming at 1.5°C are presented. At a press conference leading up the release of the report, the chair of the IPCC, Dr Hoesung Lee, said: “One notion that runs through all this, is feasibility. How feasible is it to limit warming to 1.5°C? How feasible is it to develop the technologies that will get us there?…We must analyse policy measures in terms of feasibility” (Pidcock 2016).

This prompts the question: what exactly is meant by ‘feasibility’? Generally, that something is feasible means that it can be done in practise. When analysing the debate, however, it becomes clear that there is no single agreed-upon understanding of feasibility in the climate change community. In an attempt to bring clarity to the matter, I investigate different ways in which the term ‘feasibility’ appears in the climate change discourse, using insights from political philosophy, where the concept of feasibility has been extensively discussed.

This paper consists of two main parts. In the first part, I discuss different interpretations of feasibility in the climate change discourse and put forward examples of too narrow and too broad understandings of the term. The narrow understandings tend to rely too heavily on current constraints and considerations and in doing so risks dismissing goals and actions as infeasible too easily. Too broad understandings, such as the one presented by the IPCC, on the other hand, fail to make feasibility a useful concept in practical deliberation. These flawed understandings of feasibility can in turn affect what policies are being implemented or ruled out.

In the second part of the paper, I present a positive account of feasibility suitable for the climate change context. This account is the “conditional probability account” of feasibility (as presented by Gilabert and Lawford-Smith 2012 and Lawford-Smith 2013), and includes an understanding of feasibility as a scalar, rather than binary concept. This account provides a framework for dealing with feasibility in the assessment of climate change goals and actions, which I show through applying it to the case of adaptation to sea level rise, and specifically the adaptation option managed retreat. The discussion shows that given the urgent situation that we are in, where measures combatting climate change and its effects are direly needed, feasibility can be an important dimension for prioritising between actions and goals, and that concretely, the “conditional probability account” is best suited for this purpose.


The Role of Consensus in the latest IPCC
Andrea Giuseppe Ragno (Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Germany)

In its two last reports, respectively the Fifth (AR5 2013, 2014) and the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6 2021, 2022), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has clarified its methods of estimating the uncertainty affecting its claims about climate change (Working Group 1 - WG1) and the strategies needed to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and society (Working Group 2 - WG2; Working Group 3 - WG3). Notoriously, the IPCC uses two methods for estimating uncertainty: a qualitative likelihood scale, and a quantitative confidence scale. The former allows authors to make first-order probabilistic judgments. Instead, the latter is deployed by IPCC authors when quantitative estimates are not available and it comprises a combination of two further metrics, namely the level of evidence and the degree of agreements. Thus, assigning high confidence to a claim requires both robust evidence (e.g. evidence confirmed by different assumptions) and a high degree of agreement between experts (e.g. high occurrence in the literature).

While most of the philosophy literature in the philosophy of climate science has focused on the evaluation of climate models and simulations, little has been said on the IPCC qualitative confidence scale and, in particular, on the conception of agreement used by IPCC authors. Furthermore, to date, there is no work in the literature on the challenges authors experience interpreting and applying the uncertainty framework (Mastrandrea et al. 2010, 2011) in the latest IPCC, i.e. the AR6. Some philosophers (Aven and Renn 2015; W¨uthrich 2017; Helgeson et al. 2018; Winsberg 2018; Aven 2019) have addressed the use of the two methods for estimating uncertainty in the previous assessment reports, that is, AR5, but no one has tried to extensively define the evidential role of consensus between the report, the summary for policymakers (SPM) and every text cited in the report. Some attempts (Rehg and Staley 2017), although important, are limited to a few claims made in the AR5 and do not overview the type of inference IPCC authors make when they generalise certain claims present in the climate science literature.

The goals of this project are multiple and they revolve around a larger investigation aimed at studying whether consensus can actually bridge the gap between laypersons and experts in climate science. First, we plan to classify the notions of consensus and agreement in the latest IPCC report. There has been a trend in the previous assessment report published by the WG1 of the IPCC on using more confidence terms instead of words strictly related to the quality of evidence and the level of agreement. The WG2 and the WG3 seem to have followed this trend (Janzwood 2020). We plan to check whether this trend is still present and highlight why it is ongoing. This would help us confirm the thesis that expert agreement and evidence should not be viewed as two independent dimensions of assessment in uncertainty judgement. Then, we will compare the (implicit) conditions which, according to IPCC authors, make consensus good evidence to support certain claims with other conceptions of reliable consensus in the philosophy literature (Longino 1990; Miller 2013). Finally, we will evaluate the plurality behind the conception of consensus adopted (more or less, involuntarily) by the IPCC authors and provide reasons on why we should not be monastic about consensus; the final goal is thus to comprehend and justify the rationale behind the pluralism of consensus in the IPCC.


Should Those Behind Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance Know About the Science of Climate Change?
Fred Matthews (University of Bristol, United Kingdom)

John Rawls argues that those behind his veil of ignorance should have access to general, uncontroversial facts, including facts in the natural sciences. The scientific consensus about climate change is a prime candidate for inclusion in this set of uncontroversial facts. However, it is simplistic to talk about there being one ‘scientific consensus’ on climate change; while all credible scientists agree that climate change is happening and is a serious problem, disagreements do exist regarding how bad climate change is and how many alterations to human society are required to deal with it. Most ordinary citizens are not in a position to assess the complex claims made by different scientists in this area. Rawls could argue that those behind the veil of ignorance should be risk-averse, and hence should opt for strong ecological principles instead of gambling on the more optimistic scientists being correct. However, this opens up the possibility that participants will not prioritise individual freedom over environmental protection. Those in the original position may opt for something other than liberalism, such as eco-socialism, or even more disturbing systems such as environmental authoritarianism. One solution to this problem is to acknowledge more explicitly that the veil of ignorance assumes the superiority of at least a broadly liberal system. Therefore, any ‘uncontroversial’ facts known behind the veil of ignorance will be interpreted through the lens of liberalism, rendering alternatives such as eco-socialism unviable. Development for


Climate Change and the Ethics of Risk
Eric Brown (International Business School Budapest, Hungary)

In this paper I argue that the strategy outlined in the World Bank’s Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) project, a key part of global efforts at climate change mitigation and adaptation is an ethical failure on grounds pertaining to risk. I argue first that we have strong reasons to accept that developing countries (1) are plausibly historically and contemporarily responsible for a comparatively small amount of climate change, (2) were and are subjected to extractive and exploitative political and economic practices by wealthy countries to obtain the fossil fuels that maintain their high levels of development and high levels of carbon and pollutant emissions, and (3) are at significant existential risk due to the effects of climate change.

On this background MFD is subjected to moral critique. MFD is a framework used by the World Bank to direct private capital to developmental goals. Though not exclusively aimed at climate issues, it is intended to have real impacts in that area. The MFD framework establishes a so-called “cascade approach” to development funding.

First, it should be asked if private funding can be attracted to solve the developmental problem. If it cannot be, then the conditions that make such a private solution unattractive should be alleviated by ‘de-risking.’ Briefly, de-risking means among many possibilities, establishment of public-private partnerships with the state assuming demand risk, the loosening of forex regulations, or central bank activities designed to establish and maintain liquidity in local bond markets.

First, requiring less developed nations engage in de-risking practices to attract foreign investment for development is unjust and cruel historically; the conditions that make such nations unattractive to investment stem from colonial and exploitative relations to wealthy nations where the sources of that investment are based.

Second, the MFD project relies on processes of securitization and transactions in the shadow banking sector, and, in general, active participation in a market-based finance system. Compared against direct state funding, aided by developed countries, participation in these processes that are inherently/ more systemically risky, especially for already financially vulnerable countries. The fragility of this financial sector would expose developing countries to unfair risk.

The third objection pertains to the processes of assetization and securitization upon which much of MFD fundamentally depends. The infrastructural requirements for climate change mitigation and/or adaptation are extremely different from one country to another and from one strategy to another. This means that the similarity, standardization, and predictability required for assetization is rather lacking.

Securitization based on such infrastructure on the scale imagined by MFD is not likely to occur in a way that makes such securities sufficiently liquid for use in secondary financial markets, e.g., as collateral in repo transactions. Given that the market-based finance that MFD aims at participating in (and arguably, propping up) the short-term visions and continuous demand for non-volatile liquidity on the part of big finance are unlikely to provide stable and secure funding for long-duration, highly heterogenous infrastructural projects required to mitigate the long-term risk faced by developing countries. MFD is unlikely to serve the needs of developing countries while exposing them generally and, in terms of their important climate mitigation/adaptation needs, to significant and unfair participation in systemically risky market-based finance.

Session 3: Human Connection to Nature


Sincere Wilderness: What Thoreau Can Contribute to Contemporary Environmentalism
Eleni Angelou (City University of New York, USA)

Wilderness is a highly contested concept; it is often construed as a place untouched by humans, but there are hardly any such places on Earth, and quite possibly none in the Anthropocene. It has also been tied to colonial-settler ideology and class-based leisure ideals. In this paper, I introduce a conceptual distinction between sincere and insincere wilderness; sincere wilderness emerges from the genuine human instinct to connect with the natural realm. I then show how we can use sincere wilderness to develop a stance of nature appreciation and environmentalism that can assist us to confront the problems of the contemporary ecological crisis. To accomplish this, I tie desiderata for an ethically responsible relationship with nature to a Thoreauvian account of nature appreciation which combines elements avant la lettre from Carlson’s scientific cognitivism, Carrol’s arousal model, and Welchman’s moderate formalism. Because ethical responsibility requires a sense of agency, I introduce the idea of quasi-agency and ascribe it to ecosystems. I argue that one of the conditions for this reformed environmentalism to work is to treat nature as a morally quasi-agent. I then discuss the consequences of this assumption. I conclude with suggestions as to how a Thoreauvian ethics can contribute to our everyday life environmental attitude and practice.


The Indigenous People’s Perspectives on Nature as Foundation for Understanding and Remedying Climate Change
Marlon Lopez (Philippine Science High School, Philippines)

Natural disasters and environmental degradation are closely linked with each other, As human civilization progressed to develop its technologies and capabilities, still the dichotomy between progress and environmental preservation looms to be undiscussed because of the hesitation to upset big industry players and nations still reliant to non-renewable energy. Policies have been enforced, and rules have been formulated but no significant development to preservation is observable. Thus, going back to the philosophical table is necessary to understand the root cause of the problem.

This paper will explore the various ideas and understandings of the indigenous people of South Cotabato on the dynamic relationship between humans and nature. These ideas and understanding will facilitate us as to how the indigenous people’s interact with nature and how they have achieved a balance between their existence and nature’s preservation. This paper will employ key informant interview and documentary analysis to enlighten the people of power and the common masses as to the very fundamental basis of nature and its elements and how the balance of co-existence will be achieved.

The education of the future generation on these indigenous knowledge system of harmonious co-existence with nature is a great facilitator to balancing progress of technology through harnessing natural resources alongside preservation and accountability to generations to come who will inherit a healthy environment.


The Obsolescence of Responsibility: Ethical Issues in the Anthropocene
Agostino Cera (University of Ferrara, Italy)

My paper sketches an ethical paradox emerging within the Anthropocene (as the age of climate change): the Paradox of the Omni-responsibility, i.e. the overcoming of Jonas’ imperative of responsibility as ethical standard.

My basic assumption is the acknowledgment that the Anthropocene equates to an ambiguous idea since it presents some ideological features hidden under neutral statements by virtue of their scientific ground. This “paradigm dressed as epoch” expresses an uncritical acceptance of the (con)fusion between techné and physis, which takes place in our age and whose final outcome is a “de-naturated image of nature”, i.e. a “Technature”. As a result, the Anthropo-cene stands out as Techno-cene: the epochal framework in which technology becomes “the subject of history”.

Within this unprecedented framework, human being leaves the role of the lord of a nature conceived as object and takes on that of the “Planetary Manager” of a nature conceived as living being. More precisely, nature becomes a kind of pet, i.e. something living but entirely dependent on our capability to take care of it and therefore something for which we (must) feel totally responsible. I define this phenomenon Pet-ification of Nature, a trans-objectual reification of it. A concrete example of Pet-ification of Nature can be found in the use of the so-called geoengineering as a solution to the climate change.

The combination between the Pet-ification of Nature and the absolutization of the responsibility of the Planetary Manager generates the Ethical Paradox of Omni-Responsibility. On the basis of its ecological duty of total caretaking of its own environment, human being gives birth to a Neo-Prometheanism (neo- or anthropocenic anthropocentrism) not less problematic than the traditional one. It is the Aidosean Prometheanism as outcome of an Aidosean man (after Aidos, the Greek goddess of humility), who feels himself ‘only’ the steward/manager of a nature conceived as a living being. However, this living being is thought to be in need of a total care. Promethean hybris emerges here as the paradoxical result of human’s hyper-interest and omni-responsibility towards nature’s otherness.

As a result, the Anthropocene proves to be the epoch in which Jonas’ “imperative of responsibility” no longer works, precisely because it becomes entirely makeable (achievable). This means that from an ethical perspective the most urgent request of our age is that we acknowledge the Limits of Responsibility: the possible dangerous consequences of our best intentions, when they become entirely achievable. At the same time, our age demands that we become aware of a brand-new ethical problem: the potential aporia between the responsibility for the other and the respect of its otherness, namely of the fact that no authentic “Verantwortlichkeit” (responsibility) is possible without “Gelassenheit” (releasement).

The acknowledgment of this aporia could also indicate the first philosophical step for its overcoming: a renewed dialogue between responsibility and releasement, between Jonas and Heidegger. In the 21st Century ethical toolbox cannot miss an Imperative of Gelassenheit, next to the Imperative of Responsibility.


Ecotage as Other-Defence
Alexander Arridge (University of Oxford, United Kingdom)
Presentation Handout

Ecotage, or the intentional destruction of property conducted with the aim of furthering environmental ends, is not much studied in environmental ethics. This is surprising, given that numerous radical environmentalist groups engage in or encourage ecotage as a legitimate form of environmental action; environmental ethics must catch up with environmentalist practice.

This paper argues that instances of ecotage are pro tanto justified insofar as they are instances of effective and proportionate other-defence. This paper, in presenting and defending the below argument, elucidates the conditions under which ecotage qualifies as effective and proportionate other-defence, and ventures some remarks on when such acts may be overall justified.

Ecotage as Other-Defence

P1 Runaway climate change will severely harm many present and future people;

P2 Certain agents (climate aggressors) culpably and wrongly engage in activities that contribute enormously to climate change (e.g. oil companies);

IC1 Climate aggressors are culpably and wrongly harming many present and future people;

P3 Agents make themselves liable to defensive harm when they culpably and wrongly harm others (victims);

P4 Victims or agents acting on victims’ behalf are pro tanto permitted to defensively harm aggressors, provided that this defensive harm is effective and proportionate;

IC2 Climate aggressors are liable to defensive harm, and climate victims or agents acting on their behalf are pro tanto permitted to (effectively and proportionately) defensively harm them;

P5 Sabotage of a climate aggressor’s property (ecotage) is a harm that can be both proportionate and effective at halting or slowing a climate aggressor’s climate-change-causing activities;

C Therefore ecotage, as an instance of effective and proportionate other-defence, is pro tanto justified.

The paper proceeds by elucidating and defending each of these claims; below is a very brief summary of the defence offered.

Subject to a satisfactory resolution of the non-identity problem (a task not undertaken in this paper) P1 is in fact true.

P2 is true, given i) climate aggressors like oil companies have certain deliberative and causal capacities that make them responsible (collective) agents; ii) many of their climate-aggressive activities are wrong (e.g. because they unnecessarily harm innocents) and culpable (e.g. because they have known about the climate-destructive nature of their actions for years); and iii) their activities are massively environmentally destructive in a way that other agent’s activities are not. IC1 follows from P1 and P2.

Agents have a strong moral claim (perhaps a right) against being harmed. This right, however, is not inalienable: it is at least conditional upon their not wrongly and culpably harming or threatening to harm others. When agents harm others in this way, they waive their right against harm, and make themselves liable to defensive harm (P3). Upon making themselves liable in this way, victims or those acting on their behalf are pro tanto justified to defensively harm aggressors, on the condition that this defensive harm effectively mitigates and is proportionate to the aggressor’s wrongful harm (P4). IC2 follows from P1-P4; this paper defends these claims as they are situated in the literature on self- and other-defence.

Destroying an agent’s property is a form of harm; when performed for environmental purposes, this harm is ecotage. Depending on its scale in a given case, ecotage of a climate aggressor’s property can be both i) proportionate to this aggressor’s wrongful harms, and ii) effective at halting or slowing their climate-change-causing activities (an empirical claim). P5 therefore holds, and so too the conclusion that ecotage, as an instance of effective and proportionate other-defence, is pro tanto justified.

This paper concludes by considering the practical import of this argument, and considering other morally relevant features of ecotage that might tell either for or against its overall justification in particular cases (e.g. its riskiness).

Session 4: A Global Perspective on Responsibility and Justice


“Who Gets the Bill?” Political Responsibility and the Climate Disaster
Natasha Meerschwein (Texas State University, USA)

To truly solve the climate crisis, the ethics of how it came about and how we morally conceive its solution will prove determinant to the legacy of globalization: either rendering a sustainable world or crumbling from the stresses of its contradictions. This presentation offers an empirical, sociological framework that tackles several ethical dimensions of how humanity should conceive of sustainability. Specifically, who is responsible, even culpable, for climate disaster, and how can they answer to this obligation? As for the rest of society, how does solidarity inform our political operationalizing of these ethical principles?

Treadmill of Production (ToP) theory distinguishes itself within the field of environmental sociology with an unflinching analysis of the climate crisis as irreparable under the extant political economy. ToP critiques the current world system as unjust to humanity, dissipative to the nonhuman world, and dysfunctional in its systemic logic that ignores the second law of thermodynamics. It likens the historical paradigms of the global political economy to a treadmill, accelerating ever faster toward ecological collapse. ToP theorists articulate how the compounding demand for resources and self-reflexive norms of development-as-progress shapes economies into accelerating treadmills, degrading environments and societies. This conclusion is inductive, formulated as grounded theory describing observable economic patterns worldwide, post-1945. Thus, while ToP theory strongly overlaps with Marxist ideas, its conclusions emerge from separate, empirical premises regarding the means and forces of production.

These premises are demonstrated in global investment patterns of concentration. As dedicated investment in technological advancements for productive capacities increase, conversely increased are profits, environmental degradation, and worker devaluation. Essentially, the majority power of state and economic actors (“treadmill elites”) over production renders a situation where socio-environmental devastation is pushed onto the masses in its effects, alleged sources, and what are considered “plausible” solutions. With this in mind, the ToP framework advocates popular movements pushing direct conflict with treadmill elites for democratic control and ownership of production as a primary solution. Indeed, collective direct action is the only manner by which non-elites may gain autonomy over the places where degradation of environments physically occurs.

Arguably, one of the most crucial areas for translating ToP’s ethical implications into an ecological praxis is in industrial agriculture (IA). IA’s pollution, uneven distribution, and profit model of operations has become a central arena in climate debates. To this end, the empowerment of small-scale farmers, their communities, and, importantly, their independent institutions (NGO’s) are a promising avenue towards actionable sustainability. Such empowerment might entail strengthening farmer collectives, dismantling oligopsonistic markets, revitalizing local economy, free diffusion of agroecological knowledge, and/or the networking provision of both monetary and non-monetary resources to farming communities globally.

This presentation will present preliminary results of research into state and local, agricultural NGO’s of Texas to demonstrate and analyze how these institutions align with and diverge from the ethics and politics of ToP. Discussion will attempt to “locate” agricultural NGO positionality and evaluate their impacts, and, consequently, what this suggests for both the broader climate debate and popular capability to enact climate action.


The Polluter Pays Principle. Backward-looking or Forward-looking? Or Both?
Fausto Corvino (Sant'Anna School of Adanced Studies, Italy)

Both economics and ethics textbooks converge on the polluter pays principle as the guiding principle for an effective and just climate transition: this is indispensable both to avoid market inefficiencies and to make polluters pay for the climate damage they cause. There are, however, two different versions of the polluter pays principle (PPP). The first version, usually discussed by philosophers and climate activists, is the backward-looking one: those who emitted CO2 in the past and/or those who inherited “unjust” wealth built on past emissions must compensate those who suffer the most dramatic consequences of climate change today. This is mainly a rectificatory principle that can be implemented by transferring resources from industrialised countries to developing countries that are more exposed to climate threats (e.g through rectificatory climate finance). The version of the PPP that is usually discussed by economists, instead, is forward-looking (FL-PPP): from now on, the market price of CO2 must reflect its social cost. This is both a forward-looking rectifying principle, i.e. from now on the polluter pays, and an economic principle, i.e. economic agents must be guided to make economically rational choices: abandon fossil fuels and move towards renewables. The best way to implement the FL-PPP is though carbon pricing measures.

Obviously, there is nothing to exclude the combination of the BL-PPP and the FL-PPP in a strengthened PPP. This would imply, for example, that an average American citizen would have to bear not only the cost of the CO2 she emits but also the cost of the CO2 which has been emitted by American citizens in the past. This is not only problematic from an ethical point of view (see e.g. the excusable ignorance objection and the fact that the historical polluters are no longer there) but would also face a number of obstacles of political feasibility. On the other hand, those defending the BL-PPP argue that without taking past emissions into account, the PPP would be a kind of grandfathering (let bygones be bygones, we could say) and thus would be unfair towards developing countries.

In this presentation, I defend the FL-PPP as a self-sufficient principle of climate justice, based on three main assumptions. First, the FL-PPP is necessary for the energy transition, whereas the BL-PPP is not. Second, while it is true that the PPP, without its BL component, loses intergenerational scope, it does not lose global scope. The social cost of CO2, irrespective of where it is emitted, occurs mainly in developing countries, which are more exposed to climate damage; therefore, the FL-PPP requires that at least part of the internalisation of the social cost of CO2, e.g. in the form of carbon revenues, is redistributed globally. Third, it is essential that also developing countries implement FL-PPP, both to avoid carbon leakage and for reasons of domestic distributive justice.


Colonialism, Conservation, and Epistemic Injustice
Alina Anjum Ahmed (University of Georgia, USA)

In this paper, I problematize western conservation efforts by western subjects because these western subjects become epistemic “experts” by virtue of credibility excess. I problematize colonial systems of education using Wael Hallaq’s book Restating Orientalism and argue that these colonial systems of education employ the use of orientalist lens that allow western subjects to view indigenous knowledge as inferior. Hallaq argues that ‘colonialism as sovereign knowledge generated by Orientalism with the support of European academic learning in general is situated within a larger dialectic in which the political projects of conquest and modern knowledge stand within still larger formations whose foundations are firmly anchored in a particular view of nature’ (22). I combine Hallaq’s argument with Miranda Fricker’s (2007) account of testimonial injustice. For Fricker, testimonial injustice happens whenever a speaker is viewed as having credibility deficit based on a “negative prejudicial stereotype” against a speaker’s identity (28). This negative prejudicial stereotype creates credibility deficit for those affected by it. José Medina’s (2011) expands on this account and argues that credibility excess is just as important to categorize something as being epistemic injustice. Those who do not have negative prejudicial stereotypes impacting them benefit from credibility excess. Hence, combining accounts of epistemic injustice with oriental hierarchies of systems of knowledge, I argue that western conservation efforts, especially in third world countries, rely on both credibility deficit and excess, and create epistemic experts of western ‘conservationists.’


Absolute Rights and Climate Change
Jelena Belic (Leiden University, the Netherlands)

In one of the most recent climate litigation cases, Duarte Agustinho and Others v. Portugal and Others, the European Court of Human Rights asked responding states to consider whether their inaction concerning climate change affects the applicants’ rights under article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (i.e., the prohibition of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment). This is the newest step in the human rights approach to climate change which is evaluating the effects of climate change in terms of its impact on the enjoyment of human rights. Scholars and practitioners claim that anthropogenic climate change violates even basic human rights including the right to life, private and family life, health, subsistence, and culture (Shue 2008; Caney 2010; Bell 2011; Adelman 2016; Schapper 2018). This approach is also reflected in a growing number of climate litigation cases before national and international courts and bodies. What makes the invocation of article 3 distinctive compared to these other accounts of human rights violations by climate change is that it involves a very narrow set of absolute rights. Absolute rights are those rights that cannot be overridden in any circumstances, which means that the infringement of such rights can never be justified (Gewirth 1981). In what sense, if any, the effects of climate change amount to the subjection to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment?

In some of the recent legal commentaries, it is claimed that the effects of climate change on children and young generations amount to intense mental suffering which passes the threshold of inhuman or degrading treatment due to anxiety about their future, fear of living under the conditions of changing climate, and also the sense of powerlessness as being unable to change such dire prospects (Heri 2020; Mavronicola 2021). While these amount to strong legal arguments, they do not sufficiently account for how different the context of climate change is, nor do they offer an understanding of what is “inhuman” or “degrading” about its effects. However, these predicates are ‘highly evaluative” (Waldron, 2010, p. 55) and invite for reconsidering the very normative foundations of the prohibition of ill-treatment in the context of climate change. I take this normative path in the paper.

In the paper, I argue that the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment protects the fundamental interest in the survival of humanity. Following Samuel Scheffler (2013; 2018), I further develop the idea that individual interests are diachronic in the sense that the present generations are dependent on the future ones since the value and meaning of many of our activities today as well the valuing things itself depend on the existence of future generations. I defend the claim that climate change amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment since the interests of the present people are wrongfully harmed by increasing the risk of significant harm to the interests of future generations. I also argue that framing the effects of climate change in this way also comes at the costs of the human rights approach since absolute rights imply the hierarchy among rights: in a case of conflict with non-absolute rights, absolute ones always take precedence which may affect the list of human rights we value in the context of climate change. I will also argue that these are the costs that we should accept since the era of the Anthropocene should be characterized by the emphasis on human responsibility rather than human rights.

Session 5: Considering Future Generations


Is there an ethical right of having children in front of the ecological crisis? A critique of the ethical ‘right to one child’
Josep Recasens Subias (University of Barcelona, Spain)

In this paper I defend the thesis that it is ethically permissible to have more than one child in a situation of ecological crisis. First, I begin accepting that there is no right to have unlimited children when it could lead to a situation of overpopulation. If there is a right to have children it has to be limited in a non-arbitrary way. One of the main proposals is to defend a “right to one child”. Authors such as Tim Meijers or Sarah Conly argue that there is a moral right to have one child, but no more. The idea is that having one child gives access to parenthood, while a second does not. There have been three reasons given to justify that accessing parenthood is a right and not a mere preference. First, that having a child gives access to biological reproduction and it is essential for some in their conception of a good life.

Second, that it allows one to develop skills and to acquire goods relevant for a good life. Thirdly, having a child is one of the prerequisites for having a family and it is a fundamental element in the life project of most people. The advocates of the “right to one child” argue that these reasons only justify having one child, since one child gives access to parenthood and allows one to satisfy these three reasons, but the second does not. Second, I present my argument to criticise the limitation of the right to one child as arbitrary. This position accepts an ontological property (“parenthood”) that is satisfied with only one child. Instead, I defend that we should see the property of having children as “being a parent of x (being x a specific individual)”. By this I want to emphasize that “parenthood” is not a property that can be fulfilled by a single individual in all cases. If each new child makes a significant qualitative contribution to the aforementioned reasons, it may be legitimate to also have more than one. Thirdly, I reexamine one by one the three aforementioned reasons showing that they could not be satisfied with only one child. Therefore, I defend that they can be used to justify a right to have more than one child.

Fourth, I propose a new moral limit to the right of having children. Since the “right to one child” is based on the idea that it is legitimate to have a child because it is essential for some to have a good life, a more coherent limitation would be to say that it is legitimate to have the necessary number of children that are included in the concept of a good life. This limitation will vary from person to person according to their conception of a good life, and from the same person during different moments of their life. Finally, I also consider some objections to my position, such as if my new moral limit is, in fact, an unlimited right to have children.


Direct Duties Toward Future Collectives
Daan Keij, Boris van Meurs (Radboud University, the Netherlands)

Climate change is a problem that will affect not just present but also future generations (Masson-Delmotte, 2021). Levels of carbon dioxide emissions today largely determine what Earth will look like in the (near) future, which turns climate change into an inter-generational issue (Davidson, 2008). Much of the literature on duties towards future generations has focused the so called non-identity problem. (Parfit, 1986) How can we harm future persons, if different persons will exist for each choice we make in climate policy today?

Recent developments in the field suggest that this problem can be bypassed by shifting the level of analysis from individuals to collectives. Charlotte Franziska Unruh, for example, has argued that we have a direct responsibility towards future generations because we bring them into existence in a world where they will undergo foreseeable harm (no matter which exact persons constitute these future generations; Unruh, 2021). She specifies the notion of bringing-into-existence of new generations by arguing that this is something we do as a collective, not just on the biological (cf. Cripps, 2017) but also on the institutional level (cf. Campos, 2021). We furnish traditions, institutions, and practices that concern our collective ideas and actions concerning the raising of children. As a result, not only those who become parents but all agents in society bear a responsibility towards the future and they do so not only to their own offspring but to entire generations.

We argue that Unruh’s shift to the collective level in thinking about inter-generational responsibility is useful and adequate. However, several problems arise when one tries to materialize the concept of inter-generational justice on the collective level. The shift to the collective forecloses the possibility of addressing existing inequalities between individuals within these collectives, as well as between different collectives, which are two factors that we argue should be included within the notion of bringing-into-existence. That is, on the collective level, we produce not just future people but also the unequal power relations that are maintained and enforced by the institutions, norms, and practices that we pass on to these future people (Gottschlich & Bellina, 2017; San Martín & Wood, 2022). What does an ethics of future generations look like if we take such concerns on the collective level aboard?

In our talk, we will develop questions that follow from this extension of Unruh’s proposal. For example, how is Unruh’s collective constituted? What is the role of exclusion in this constitution? How can we deal with inequalities within and between collectives? Although these questions are urgent if we wish to give a concrete shape to our responsibilities as a collective towards future collectives, Unruh’s text does not yet develop the tools to engage with them. However, as we will argue, for an ethical consideration of climate change to live up to its name, it has to be political as well (cf. Sardo, 2020).


The Problem of Compliance to Rawls’ Just Saving Principle
Marc Sanjaume-Calvet and Klaudijo Klaser (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain, and Università degli Studi di Trento, Italy)

John Rawls did not devote much attention to the environmental issue. Therefore several alternative approaches have been proposed to forcibly extrapolate a more structured concern for the environment preservation from his A Theory of Justice. However, it would be unfair to attribute to Rawls a lack of concern for a sustainable use of natural resources. Indeed, even though he dedicated to the topic only a few pages of his monograph, it’s obvious that Rawls cared about the fate of future generations. Actually, while nowadays the climate change topic has penetrated many layers of the society, John Rawls dealt with justice between generations and a just saving principle when no one was even barely thinking about that. So we can claim that he was a visionary, having an intuition avant la lettre. Nevertheless, the exact meaning, scope and operationalization of his just savings principle (and rate) was defined in very broad and ambiguous terms, and this paved the way to the many reformulations in the following literature.

In the first part of our paper we retrace the evolution of Rawls’s thought about justice between generations, from A Theory of Justice, going through Political Liberalism, and ending with Justice as Fairness: a Restatement. We show that, although Rawls substantially revised the procedure to achieve a just saving principle behind the veil of ignorance, the final outcome did not change, formulating always the just saving principle as “a path over time which treats all generations justly during the whole course of a society’s history”. In this way we aim at proving Rawls’s concern for future generations in general and for the environment in particular, with no longer need to question that. The only lack we are allowed to ascribe to Rawls is that he did not consider the different nature of compliance to principles of intergenerational justice, compared to the intragenerational case. Thus, in the second part of our paper we turn the attention on the fact that it is compliance, and not the content of the principle, the true modern challenge for the environment and for the survival of future generations. This can be also observed in the real context: nations constantly fail to reach the targets agreed through the international climate change agreements. Thus, even though nations, from 1992 to 2015, signed 15 different agreements to commit to limit or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – showing a remarkable concern for future generations through a widely shared principle – so far all the prescriptions have been invariably disregarded. Therefore, the lack of compliance to intergenerational principles jeopardizes the environment and humankind.

Our contribution is relevant and original because, in spite of the vast amount of literature devoted to Rawls and future generations, there is little debate on compliance. In this article we aim to bring the attention back on compliance as a template for future debates and empirical studies on the environment in particular and future generations in general.


Democratic Institutions, Future People, and the Climate Emergency
Matthias Fritsch (Concordia University, Canada)

In the face of the climate emergency, political decision-making is caught in an increasingly perilous paradox. On the one hand, our collective impacts (which, as collective, call for political responses), as well as our knowledge of these impacts — and hence, our responsibilities — reach longer and potentially more harmfully into the future. On the other, the futural timescales that our political decisions take into account tend to get shorter and shorter (Rosa & Scheuerman 2009). It is thus paramount to identify and, if possible, counteract, the drivers of short-termism. In the face of tremendous long-term environmental challenges, recent years witness the birth of new proposals regarding how to reform existing democratic institutions (see e.g. the proposals collected in Ricoy & Gosseries 2016). Some of these proposals, though by no means all, respond to long-standing complaints that modern democracy, in particular in association with globalizing capitalism, inherently favours the present, at the expense of past and future generations. After reviewing the reasons that have been put forward for democracy’s short-termism, the argument presented here proceeds in the following steps. First, I argue that it is preferable to discover and foster pro-futural motivations internal to the democratic heritage. Second, I suggest that taking turns (or rotation) among rulers and ruled is a normative idea inherent to the concept of democracy. Going back to Aristotle’s Politics in particular, I present four reasons why ‘taking turns’ is relevant to democracy as self-governance.

First, if democracy is defined (among other things) as rule among the free and equal, but not all can govern at the same time (as there are limited offices, or for pragmatic reasons), then free and equal citizens should take turns in governing. In this way, each one becomes governor and governed in turn, thereby satisfying the freedom and the equality requirement. Secondly, Aristotle suggests that the need to apply the law already implies the idea of taking turns with law-executing offices. For if rulers—very human, thus rational but also still “beastly” and selfish — applied the law to themselves, then they would be above the law and thereby violate the very idea of the law as applying to all equally. We still find this today in recusals for conflict-of-interest reasons—often a ‘vice’-office holder will then step in, derived from Latin ‘vicis,’ meanings “by turns” (per vices), “in turn” (vicissim), “succession,” “alternation,” and “in place of” (in vicem). Hence, law and taking turns are closely aligned, not only but especially in democracy, which treats all citizens equally and thus doesn’t take anyone to be above the law. Third, a more modern link between democracy and taking turns lies in protecting minorities. A democracy explains why a minority should consent to majority rule by suggesting, grosso modo, that the minority may become the majority at the next turn (e.g. the next election). Fourth, I argue that it belongs to the democratic ethos to respect and institutionalize free speech, which entails that democrats must grant the others (e.g. the minority, the official opposition in parliament, etc.) a chance, a turn, at speaking. Conversations and dialogue in general, as linguists know well (Hayashi 2012), requires taking turns with speech, and so granting free speech in principle to all citizens (or all affected by democratic decisions) calls for the institutionalization of a turn at speaking and being heard. In democratic theory, this insight has above all been elaborated by deliberative or discursive theories that insist on the centrality of pre-voting, pre-aggregative deliberation (Habermas 1996; Gutmann & Thompson 2004; Fontana, Nederman, & Remer 2004; Mackenzie & Sorial 2011).

The upshot of this account is that democracy implies the principled consent to others ruling after ‘my’ turn. I further argue that taking turns is most appropriate as a model of sharing when it comes to indivisible collective goods, such as political institutions (as well as ‘holistic’ eco-systems and climate) — goods that would be destroyed by their division and distribution. The third step of the argument then consists in showing why taking turns among rulers and ruled must be understood to also imply taking turns among generations. To consent to someone else ruling after my turn is to consent to a generation having its turn with governance after my death. Hence, a democratic commitment entails the obligation to safeguard democratic institutions for future generations. Climate change will likely endanger the stability of these institutions, so democracies should combat global heating.

In conclusion, I stress that many of the drivers of democratic short-termism are related to the dependence of national governments on global markets and the economic movement of capital. Thus, taking democratic turns with generations above all calls for stemming the economic interference in an ecological embedding of democratic institutions.