ADVANTAGES

The preservation of opportunities to live well, or at least to have aminimally acceptable level of well being, is at the heart of and many contemporary conceptions ofsustainability. Many people believe such opportunities for theexisting younger generations, and also for the yet to arrive futuregenerations, to be under threat from continuing environmentaldestruction, including loss of fresh water resources, continuedclearing of wild areas and a changing climate. Of these, climatechange has come to prominence as an area of intense policy andpolitical debate, to which applied philosophers and ethicists havemuch to contribute. An early exploration of the topic by John Broomeshows how the economics of climate change could not be divorced fromconsiderations of intergenerational justice and ethics (Broome 1992),and this has set the scene for subsequent discussions andanalyses. More than a decade later, when Stephen Gardiner analyses thestate of affairs surrounding climate change in an article entitled “APerfect Moral Storm” (Gardiner 2006), his starting point is also thatethics plays a fundamental role in all discussions of climatepolicy. But he argues that even if difficult ethical and conceptualquestions facing climate change (such as the so-called “”along with the notion of ) could be answered, it would still be close topolitically and socially impossible to formulate, let alone toenforce, policies and action plans to deal effectively with climatechange. This is due to the multi-faceted nature of a problem thatinvolves vast numbers of agents and players. At a global level, thereis first of all the practical problem of motivating sharedresponsibilities (see the entry on ) in part due to the dispersed nature of greenhouse gasemissions which makes the effects of increasing levels of atmosphericcarbon and methane not always felt most strongly in the regions wherethey originate. Add to this the fact that there is an un-coordinatedand also dispersed network of agents—both individual and corporate—responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, and that there are noeffective institutions that can control and limit them. But thistangle of issues constitutes, Gardiner argues, only one strand in theskein of quandaries that confronts us. There is also the fact that byand large only future generations will carry the brunt of the impactsof climate change, explaining why current generations have no strongincentive to act. Finally, it is evident that our current mainstreampolitical, economic, and ethical models are not up to the task ofreaching global consensus, and in many cases not even nationalconsensus, on how best to design and implement fair climatepolicies.

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