Greenhouse gas emissions (in short: carbon emissions) are known to be the primary cause of climate change. And climate change is known to cause a wide range of effects, most of which are costly or harmful to humans. As a consequence, there is a wide call for climate action – climate mitigation to curb and reduce carbon emissions, and climate adaptation to prepare populations to live well with the consequences of climate change. Much of the public discussions around climate change are about technological possibilities, about which instruments to use for climate mitigation and climate adaptation, about the business case for climate action especially around proposals of moving to the circular economy, or about how to muster the political will to take the necessary steps.
What is much less discussed in the public arena is that climate change has also an ethical dimension. More precisely, it has several ethical dimensions, since the questions of who owes what to whom, and what each actor (persons, households, organizations, firms, governments) ought to do, apply both to the question of climate adaptation as well as to climate mitigation.
In this talk, Ingrid Robeyns will focus on the case of the (unequal) distribution of emissions, as well as the (unequal) distribution of both their harmful effects as well as the welfare they enable, and show that this raises a host of moral issues. She will also focus on an important question that divides climate ethicists, namely, should climate-related duties fall on individuals, or should we only focus on structural solutions, and not talk about individual duties? For example, should we all try to fly less, eat less meat, and implement other changes to our lifestyles voluntarily, or is it the wrong focus to put moral demands on individuals?