ABSTRACTS: (arranged alphabetically by author)

Chrisoula Andreou, “Environmental Preservation and Second-Order Procrastination”

When it comes to environmental preservation, procrastination, though it involves courting disaster, is difficult to resist. And it is not all that hard to see why. The long-term goal of environmental preservation has substantial immediate costs. Relatedly, it requires that we refrain from repeatedly taking actions whose effects are individually negligible but can be cumulatively devastating; and this is an exercise of the will that it can be quite tempting to put off. In my paper, I first explain the notion of procrastination with which I am concerned and elaborate on procrastination with respect to environmental preservation. I then introduce the idea of second-order procrastination, which involves procrastinating in dealing with a (first-order) procrastination problem. Finally, I argue that, although second-order procrastination does not always stand in the way of solving first-order procrastination problems, procrastination with respect to environmental preservation is in the class of procrastination problems that are particularly difficult to overcome because of the presence of factors that support second-order procrastination. If my reasoning is correct, then second-order procrastination can help explain the distressing fact—assuming it is a fact and not an invention of hysterical misapprehension—that, despite widespread professions of serious concern, the issue of environmental preservation is not getting as much of our attention as it deserves. My reasoning also suggests that improving our situation may require that some of the efforts now focused on promoting concern for environmental preservation be rerouted into tracking procrastination and deploying insights on how to cope with it. Return to Conference Schedule

Paul Baer, “Greenhouse Development Rights”

Much of the ethical debate in the climate policy arena has revolved around the allocation of now-scarce rights to emit greenhouse pollution. The focal claim of many scholars and advocates has been that shared egalitarian principles demand an equal per capita right to emit. Yet both theoretical considerations and the practical confrontation of this idea with real-world politics show its weaknesses, including the crucial fact that it is the cumulative, not annual, right to pollute that is the resource that is ultimately being distributed. This substantially reduces the simplicity of applying an egalitarian principle to the distribution of the common resource.

An alternative focal point for analysis is the right to development - a complex and highly normative concept, but usable in spite of any controversy, and which I argue is the appropriate end to which the right to emit greenhouse pollution is a means. We suggest in our new “Greenhouse Development Rights” framework that the appropriate standard is that poor countries right to develop should not be impeded by the requirement to reduce GHG emissions, and that the presumably steep burden of mitigation costs must be shared on the basis of responsibility and capacity. A number of intermediate steps - particularly the quantification of responsibility and capacity, and the definition of appropriate developent thresholds, – are needed to move from this abstract principle to a coherent global policy scenario. In this paper, we describe the progress made to date in articulating the ethical foundations of the Greenhouse Development Rights framework, including assessing the importance of inequality within nations, and in producing a policy-relevant quantitative analysis. In particular, we focus on the roles played by the United States and China as prototypes of key categories of rich and poor countries. Return to Conference Schedule

Simon Caney, “Climate Change and Human Rights”

It is widely recognized that the earth’s climate is undergoing some fundamental changes. I argue that these changes undermine several core human interests - including, interests in (i) decent health, (ii) economic necessities, and (iii) physical security. Building on this, and after taking into account the kinds of duties required to protect these

interests, I argue that persons have a right to the protection of these vital interests. These rights, I argue, are held by future people as well as contemporaries. I further explore how one specifies the level of protection that is required by these rights. The paper then proceeds to examine two kinds of challenge to this position - an extreme challenge

(which denies that future people have rights) and a moderate challenge (which claims that a positive social discount rate should be applied to the rights of future generations). Neither kind of challenge is found persuasive. Return to Conference Schedule

Stephen Gardiner, “Is Geoengineering the "Lesser Evil"?"
[On-line paper available here].Return to Conference Schedule


Dennis Hartmann, “IPCC 2007 and Beyond”

A summary of the consensus of climate scientists on the causes, current status and expected future of human-induced climate change will be given, including assessment of uncertainty in predictions of future climate and some of the impacts that may be expected. Return to Conference Schedule

Dale Jamieson, “What’s Wrong with Climate Change”

Since the 1980s, when the case for anthropogenic climate change began to look plausible, a small group of climate change deniers have actively attempted to thwart action. In recent years this group has been extensively scrutinized by anthropologists, political scientists, and journalists. While the deniers have had some effect in preventing 

policy action, more important still is  that even among those who believe that anthropogenic climate change is occurring (an overwhelming majority in all industrial countries), there is  sharp disagreement about how important this is and why we should care about it. In this essay I will try to diagnose what is at the foundation of this largely undiscussed difference in perspective. 

After briefly mentioning various cognitive and affective obstacles that I have discussed elsewhere, and the game-theoretic considerations adduced by Gardiner, I will discuss the following (non-mutually exclusive) views of what is wrong with climate change: 1. that it imposes unacceptable risks (Schneider and others); 2. that it will cause significant economic losses (Nordhause and others); 3. that it is unjust (Shue and others); 4. that it will have irreversible effects. While I think all of these are important considerations, for those who are most concerned about climate change there is a further, fundamental moral intuition that is at work that raises the salience of this issue. The intuition is roughly that it is simply wrong for humans to causally affect natural systems in such a profound way (cf. Goodin’s discussion). I will discuss to what extent this is an irreducibly deontological intuition and to what extent it can be defended. Finally, I will address the question of whether significant action on climate change can be motivated without recourse to some such fundamental intuition. Return to Conference Schedule

Jeffrey T. Kiehl, “Ethics and Climate Modeling”

Climate models are the most comprehensive tool scientists have to project future climate change. These models continue to grow in complexity to account for the details of Earth’s climate system. However, climate models are not perfect representations of the global environment. In analogy with Plato’s theory of Forms, climate models provide representations of Nature. Often the public is unsure of how much to believe in these model representations. Indeed, climate skeptics claim these models are forced to agree with the present world, and thus present false projections of the future. I will discuss a number of ethical issues regarding how climate models are constructed and the ethical decisions that climate modelers face in conveying model results to the public. I will also argue that modeling the climate is grounded in value issues that need to be included in the climate modeling process. Return to Conference Schedule

Gavin Schmidt, “The Ethics of Communicating Science”

Climate change is example of a science that, given the large perceived impacts, has become highly politicized. In such an environment, science is often used within the political context as a proxy for political positions. This ‘science’ is often uncontextualised, over-interpreted and frequently has nothing to do with the political debate at hand. Public statements by scientists—whether in media interviews, press releases or in briefings very often become fodder for political discussion in ways that are frequently contrary to the positions held by the scientists themselves. This ‘scientization’ of the political discourse places scientists in a very delicate position.

How far do scientists’ responsibilities go in ensuring that relevant science is appropriately transmitted and understood by the public and policy makers? Even if scientists are not interested in the political ramifications of their work, do they still have a responsibility to try and ensure that it is not misused? What recourses are available to extract work from the fake ‘scientized’ political debate? Do all scientists have this responsibility, or can the field rely on a few public spokespeople? To what extent are ‘public’ scientists responsible for explaining/defending the field as a whole rather than just their own work?

I will try to make the case that simple publication in the technical literature is clearly not sufficient, but that attempts at popularization of the science is fraught with problems of its own. Examples of unfortunate public statements and subsequently appalling media coverage are legion. Return to Conference Schedule

Henry Shue, “Harming the Grandchildren”

This paper defends four theses:

1.  Failing to deal with climate change constitutes, not failing to help future generations, but inflicting harm on them;

2.  Failing to deal with climate change constitutes inflicting harm on generations who could have been spared all such harm;

3.  Failing to deal with climate change constitutes not simply continuing to make it worse, but unnecessarily creating opportunities for it to become significantly worse by feeding upon itself through positive feedbacks that

would otherwise not have occurred; and

4.  Failing to deal with climate change constitutes not only unnecessarily creating opportunities for the planetary environment to become significantly worse, but also unnecessarily creating opportunities for it to become catastrophically worse. Return to Conference Schedule

Clark Wolf, “Climate as an Exhaustible Resource”

The problem of choosing an inter-generationally sustainable climate policy can be modeled as the sustainable use of a renewable, but exhaustible resource. Modeling the problem in this way makes it easier to link the problem of climate policy with theories of intergenerational justice. Return to Conference Schedule