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This subject will integrate ethical, technical, geopolitical and economic perspectives to examine the moral challenges climate change raises.
In a first introductory module, we will delve into fundamental ethical questions raised by climate change: (i) our moral duties towards future generations and the planet as a whole (ii) the moral duties of past and current major polluters, (iii) the collective and personal responsibilities in addressing its effects.
In the second module, we’ll review current perspectives and evidence from climate change science, the processes contributing to global emissions and their potential mitigation, and the impact climate change has on the environment. We will specifically address climate skepticism, exploring the role of the media, political propaganda and willful ignorance in sustaining it.
The subject’s core module will focus on specific ethical dilemmas we face in mitigating and adapting to the future effects of climate change:
- energy policy: How should we weigh costs, benefits, risks and uncertainties associated with low pollution solutions such as blue carbon, biofuels or nuclear energy?
- animals and food: How do we decide which food industries should be promoted to help mitigate climate change? What moral duties do we have in this context toward animal species, freedoms of choice, open markets?
- planning our future cities: Should we reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts within our cities by creating dense, high-rise communities disconnected from nature?
- the global South: how should the burden of reducing global emissions be shared among states, and reconciled with the legitimate aspirations to economic development of the global South (and South East Asia more specifically)? Is there an obligation to assist small-island nations or poor and more vulnerable countries?
In a coda, we’ll explore how climate change migration might challenge our post-WW2 understanding of refugees and their rights to protection. We will examine how the issues of poverty and climate change intersect to produce new waves of mass migration, and what are Australia's obligations when it comes to responding to that challenge.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who complete this subject will:
- Understand philosophical treatments of our moral obligations to preserve the environment and appreciate the difficulties associated with weighing environmental obligations against competing obligations and permissions;
- Have learned to integrate perspectives from ethics with perspectives from climate science, political science and economics in addressing one of the most important moral, political, technological and economic challenges facing the world in the 21st century;
- Have developed critical and creative skills in analyzing and providing empirically informed responses to some of the complex ethical dilemmas generated by climate change.
Last updated: 9 July 2020