Climate ethics at a multidisciplinary crossroads: four directions for future scholarship

Abstract

In recent years, the field of climate ethics has grown into a truly multidisciplinary endeavor. Climate ethics scholars are pursuing both normative and positive questions about climate change using many different approaches drawn from a wide diversity of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. Now, the field stands at a multidisciplinary crossroads, delineated in large part by two interrelated considerations: what are the key research questions most in need of multidisciplinary attention and what can be done to move the insights and implications of climate ethics scholarship into real-world climate decision-making. Here, we identify four directions for near-future climate ethics research that we believe are both in need of further examination and likely to be of interest to a diverse coalition of decision-makers working “on the ground”: geoengineering; scope of ethical consideration; responsibility of actors; and, hazards, vulnerabilities and impacts. Regardless of the specific questions they choose to pursue, multidisciplinary climate ethics researchers should strive to conduct accessible and actionable research that both answers the questions decision-makers are already asking as well as helps shape those questions to make decision-making processes more inclusive and ethically-grounded.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term “geoengineering” as a shorthand to refer to the diverse and ever-growing suite of technologies and other approaches to intentional climate system management that climate scientists, engineers, policymakers and others have begun considering in earnest over the past decade. These include both so-called “solar radiation management” (SRM) and “carbon drawdown and removal” (CDR) strategies. For further discussion see Jamieson (2013).

References

  1. Aldy JE, Stavins RN (2012) Climate negotiators create an opportunity for scholars. Science 337:1043–1044. doi:10.1126/science.1223836

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Böhringer C, Helm C (2008) On the fair division of greenhouse gas abatement cost. Resour Energy Econ 30:260–276

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Burns WCG, Strauss L (2013) Climate change geoengineering. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  4. Ciscar JC, Saveyn B, Soria A, Szabo L, Van Regemorter D, Van Ierland T (2013) A comparability analysis of global burden sharing GHG reduction scenarios. Energ Policy 55:73–81. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2012.10.044

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Corner A, Pidgeon N (2015) Like artificial trees? The effect of framing by natural analogy on public perceptions of geoengineering. Clim Chang (this issue). doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1148-6

    Google Scholar 

  6. Cripps E (2013) Climate change and the moral agent: individual duties in an interdependent world. Oxford Univ Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  7. Gardiner SM (2010) Is ‘arming the future’ with geoengineering really the lesser evil? Some doubts about the ethics of intentionally manipulating the climate system. In: Gardiner SM, Caney S, Jamieson D, Shue H (eds) Climate ethics. Essential readings. Oxford Univ Press, New York, pp 284–314

    Google Scholar 

  8. Graham S, Barnett J, Fincher R, Mortreux C, Hurlimann A (2015) Towards fair local outcomes in adaptation to sea-level rise. Clim Chang (this issue). doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1171-7

    Google Scholar 

  9. Grasso M (2010) Justice in Funding adaptation to climate change under the international climate change regime. Springer, Dordrecht

    Google Scholar 

  10. Grasso M, Feola G (2012) Mediterranean agriculture under climate change: adaptive capacity, adaptation, and ethics. Reg Environ Chang 12:607–618. doi:10.1007/s10113-011-0274-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Guglielmo S, Monroe A, Malle B (2009) At the heart of morality lies folk psychology. Inquiry 52:449–466. doi:10.1080/00201740903302600

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hamilton C (2013) Earthmasters: the dawn of the age of climate engineering. Yale Univ Press, New Haven

    Google Scholar 

  13. Harris LT, Fiske LT (2006) Dehumanizing the lowest of the low: neuroimaging responses to extreme outgroups. Psychol Sci 17:847–853. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01793.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Heede R (2014) Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers. Clim Chang 122(1–2):229–241. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0986-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2014). Climate change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the intergovernmental panel on climate change fifth assessment report. http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/. Accessed 22 Nov 2014

  16. Jamieson D (1996) Ethics and intentional climate change. Clim Chang 33(3):323–336

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Jamieson D (2013) Some whats, whys and worries of geoengineering. Clim Chang 121(3):527–537. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0862-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Jamieson D (2014) Reason in a dark time: why the struggle to stop climate change failed, and what it means for our future. Oxford Univ Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  19. Klein RJT, Schipper EL, Dessai S (2005) Integrating mitigation and adaptation into climate and development policy: three research questions. Environ Sci Pol 8(6):579–588. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2005.06.010

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Lamb M, Lane M (Forthcoming) Aristotle on the ethics of communicating climate change. In: Heyward C, Reser D (Eds) Climate justice in a non-ideal world. Oxford Univ Press, Oxford

  21. Leiserowitz A, Maibach E, Roser-Renouf C, Feinberg G, Rosenthal S, Marlon J (2014a) Climate change in the American mind: Americans’ global warming beliefs and attitudes in November, 2013. Yale University and George Mason University. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, New Haven

  22. Leiserowitz A, Maibach E, Roser-Renouf C, Feinberg G, Rosenthal S (2014b) Public support for climate and energy policies in November 2013. Yale University and George Mason University. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, New Haven

  23. Markowitz EM (2012) Is climate change an ethical issue? Exploring young adults’ beliefs about climate and morality. Clim Chang 114(3–4):479–495. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0422-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Markowitz EM, Shariff A (2012) Climate change and moral judgment. Nat Clim Chang 2:243–247. doi:10.1038/nclimate1378

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Mayer B (2015) Conceiving the rationale for international climate law. Clim Chang (this issue). doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1271-4

    Google Scholar 

  26. Nelson DR, Adger WN, Brown K (2007) Adaptation to environmental change: contributions of a resilience framework. Annu Rev Environ Resour 32:395–419

  27. Nolt J (2011) How harmful are the average American’s greenhouse gas emissions? Ethics Policy and Environ 14(1):3–10. doi:10.1080/21550085.2011.561584

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Nolt J (2015) Casualties as a moral measure of climate change. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1131-2

    Google Scholar 

  29. Palmer C (2011) Does nature matter? The place of nonhuman in the ethics of climate change. In: Arnold DG (ed) The ethics of global climate change. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, pp 272–291

    Google Scholar 

  30. Pielke RA Jr, Prins G, Rayner S, Sarewitz D (2007) Climate change 2007: lifting the taboo on adaptation. Nature 445:597–598. doi:10.1038/445597a

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Polling data available at www.pewresearch.org

  32. Preston CJ (ed) (2012) Engineering the climate. The ethics of solar radiation management. Lexington Books, Plymouth

    Google Scholar 

  33. Preston CJ (2015) Framing an ethics of climate management for the anthropocene. Clim Chang (this issue). doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1182-4

    Google Scholar 

  34. Shepherd J (2009) Geoengineering the climate: science, governance and uncertainty. The Royal Society, London

    Google Scholar 

  35. Shue H (1993) Subsistence emissions and luxury emissions. Law Policy 15(1):39–59. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9930.1993.tb00093.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Tschakert P, Machado M (2012) Gender justice and rights in climate change adaptation: opportunities and pitfalls. Ethics Soc Welf 6(3):275–289. doi:10.1080/17496535.2012.704929

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Wade-Benzoni KA, Sondak H, Galinsky AD (2010) Leaving a legacy: intergenerational allocations of benefits and burdens. Bus Ethics Q 20(1):7–34. doi:10.5840/beq20102013

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Wilbanks TJ, Kane SM, Leiby PN, Perlack RD, Settle C, Shogren JF, Smith JB (2003) Integrating mitigation and adaptation: possible responses to global climate change. Environ: Sci Policy Sustain Dev. doi:10.1080/00139150309604547

    Google Scholar 

  39. Wood R, Gardiner S, Hartzell-Nichols L (2013) Climatic change special issue: geoengineering research and its limitations. Clim Chang 121(3):427–430. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-1000-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology and Social Sciences (CISEPS), Università Milano-Bicocca and from the Chamber of Commerce of Como, Italy. Their financial contribution made it possible to organize the workshop ‘Multidisciplinary perspectives on climate ethics’ (September 26–27, 2013, held in Lake Como, Italy), where many of the concepts discussed in this paper were first developed.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ezra M. Markowitz.

Additional information

This article is part of a special issue on “Multidisciplinary perspectives on climate ethics” with guest editors Marco Grasso and Ezra M. Markowitz.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Markowitz, E.M., Grasso, M. & Jamieson, D. Climate ethics at a multidisciplinary crossroads: four directions for future scholarship. Climatic Change 130, 465–474 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1404-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Ethical Consideration
  • Adaptive Capacity
  • Climate Ethic
  • Solar Radiation Management