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Climate Ethics (PHIL90029)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codePHIL90029
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject will introduce you to the challenging philosophical issues raised by climate change. We will cover some of the following questions: is climate change a Tragedy of the Commons? Do our individual GHG emissions do harm? If they do not, do we have any reason to restrain our emissions? What is the non-identity problem, and how seriously should we take it? Does climate change have differential impacts on women and people of colour, and if so, what implications does that have for climate responsibilities? How should the burden of reducing global emissions be shared among states? What is the precautionary principle, and what does it tell us to do about climate change? What is the relative importance of action against climate change compared against other morally important goals? What (if anything) is wrong with geoengineering? What psychological obstacles get in the way of individual action on climate change? In this subject you'll learn both how to defend and criticize arguments relating to climate ethics and environmental activism, and how to articulate what actions might be required of individuals, companies, and states to mitigate climate change.

Please note: this is a research seminar, not a lectured course. We'll read two papers a week and discuss them together, structured around brief student summaries & criticisms.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who complete this subject will:

  • Understand important conceptual distinctions between different ways in which the environment has value
  • Understand philosophical treatments of our moral obligations to preserve the environment
  • Appreciate the difficulties associated with weighing environmental obligations against competing obligations and permissions;
  • Understand the moral significance of the difference between individual and collective action

Last updated: 9 October 2019