1st Edition

The Ethics of Climate Change
An Introduction

ISBN 9781138559790
Published July 3, 2018 by Routledge
198 Pages

USD $44.95

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Book Description

The Ethics of Climate Change: An Introduction systematically and comprehensively examines the ethical issues surrounding arguably the greatest threat now facing humanity. Williston addresses important questions such as:

  • Has humanity entered the Anthropocene?
  • Is climate change primarily an ethical issue?
  • Does climate change represent a moral wrong?
  • What are the impacts of climate change?
  • What are the main causes of political inaction?
  • What is the argument for climate change denial?
  • What are intragenerational justice and intergenerational justice?
  • To what extent is climate change an economic problem?
  • Is geoengineering an ethically appropriate response to climate change?

Featuring case studies throughout, this textbook provides a philosophical introduction to an immensely topical issue studied by students within the fields of applied ethics, global justice, sustainability, geography, and politics.

Table of Contents


1. The Basic science

    • Introduction
    • The greenhouse effect
    • Climate projections
    • Risks and vulnerabilities
    • Ethical communication of science
    • Chapter summary

2. What is Climate Change Ethics?

    • Introduction
    • Ideal and non-ideal theory
    • Climate economics
    • Why ethics is necessary
    • Is ethics adequate?
    • Chapter summary

3. Precautionary Policy

    • Introduction
    • The precautionary principle
    • Adaptation and mitigation
    • Three drivers of climate change
    • From Rio to Paris
    • Chapter summary

4. International Justice

    • Introduction
    • Climate change and human rights
    • The ideology of business as usual
    • The tragedy of the commons
    • Three principles of climate justice
    • The right to development
    • Chapter summary

5. Intergenerational Justice

    • Introduction
    • An ‘intergenerational arms race’
    • The non-identity problem
    • The contractarian gambit
    • Just savings
    • Beyond the contract?
    • Chapter summary

6. Nature in the Anthropocene

    • Introduction
    • Why species matter
    • The Anthropocene
    • Activist preservationism
    • Two moral doctrines
    • Ecomodernism
    • The end of nature
    • Chapter summary

7. Individual Duties

    • Introduction
    • The prisoner’s dilemma
    • The negligibility thesis
    • Turning to the virtues
    • Virtues for the climate crisis
    • Building just institutions
    • Carbon offsetting
    • Chapter summary

8. Climate Change Denial

    • Introduction
    • Virtue Epistemology
    • How to believe in climate change
    • Climate change bullshit
    • Dealing with bullshit: producers and consumers
    • The problem of integrity
    • Chapter summary

9. Geoengineering

    • Introduction
    • The turn to geoengineering
    • Moral hazard and moral corruption
    • Just governance
    • Distributive justice
    • Intergenerational justice
    • Procedural justice
    • Corrective justice
    • Chapter summary




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Byron Williston is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. He is the author of The Anthropocene Project: Virtue in the Age of Climate Change (2015). 


"Williston's The Ethics of Climate Change persuasively shows how analytic philosophy can break free from the contemporary American Disenlightenment and contribute to the values and virtues of a sustainable future."
Martin Schönfeld, University of South Florida, USA

"Williston has provided an admirably clear, concise, and well-informed introduction to climate ethics that does not shy away from taking positions. This is an excellent introduction to the subject, both for students and for anyone concerned with one of the most profound challenges of our time."
Dale Jamieson, New York University, USA

"An exceptionally comprehensive and judicious exploration of an ominously important cluster of issues, embedding rigorous but lucid philosophical arguments in the non-ideal political realities of the fraught international negotiations. Williston probes insightfully and in a delightfully lively style – I know of nothing else this engaging for introductory or intermediate students."

                                           Henry Shue, Merton College, University of Oxford, UK