The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis confronts us with the costs of failure to consider long-term risks, such as climate change. It is imperative to consider the merits of policies that may help to limit climate damages. This policy comment rebuts three common objections to carbon taxes: (1) that they do not change behavior; (2) that they generate unfair burdens and increase inequality; and (3) that fundamental systemic change is needed instead of carbon taxes. The responses are (1) there is both theoretical and empirical reason to think that carbon taxes do change behavior, with larger taxes changing it to a greater extent; (2) that undistributed carbon taxes are regressive but distributing the tax receipts can alleviate that regressivity (and, in many cases, make the overall effect progressive); and (3) while small changes for increasing democratic decision-making may be helpful, (fundamental) change takes time and the climate crisis requires urgent action.
Individual denialists deny that adding any given individual’s emissions in isolation ever causes climate harms. They accept that the emissions of large groups do cause climate harms. This requires assuming a metaphysical threshold where large numbers of actions have effects but that certain subsets of those actions have no effect. Most objections to individual denialists do not grant that there could be such a threshold. Granting this assumption in order to make an internal criticism, I go on to systematically consider which kinds of justification could be made for the claim that there is a relevant difference between individuals and large groups. I find all the justifications on offer wanting partially as, from a scientific point of view, there is nothing privileged about the emissions at the level of the individual as opposed to larger or smaller levels. I discuss how a claim about the potential value of working with others could have been misconstrued as supporting the more radical claim that individuals do not make a climate difference. [Draft uploaded here]
Veritism, the thesis that true belief is the sole epistemic value, has been challenged in the context of process reliabilism. This challenge, sometimes called “the swamping problem”, holds that process reliabilism cannot explain the value of knowledge over true belief, at least not under veritist assumptions. To address the swamping problem, Olsson extended veritist evaluations over different times. I argue that this extension pulls process reliabilism too close to internalism. The solution offered here is to extend veritist evaluations still further, over different agents. By considering the true beliefs that are expected to accrue to different agents, we can avoid the appeal to any given agent's internal higher order capacities. This solution addresses the externalist's worry, while also making the response more parsimonious and avoiding several other objections which have been made to Olsson's solution. I argue that my extension can also be motivated as a more thorough-going externalist response and conclude by drawing out some interesting implications of the extension. [Draft version uploaded here]
This paper argues that historical responsibilities for Loss & Damage measures are different conceptually for those for mitigation or adaptation measures. It applies these in the context of carbon majors, testing empirically the implications of excusable ignorance. [Please contact me for a draft if interested.]
Many theorists have modalized social and ethical concepts. They hold that
Robustness. Some (particular) normative goods hold in light of the satisfaction of some conditions in (some) possible worlds, not in terms of the conditions at the actual world.
We can call such goods “robust”. My contention in this essay is that Robustness may be more of a trap than a solution to the explication of complex moral goods. This will involve explaining the appeal of robustness, introducing several accounts, systematically distinguishing between different types of robustness, and arguing that all of them face significant—and, in my opinion, decisive—theoretical costs. [Draft version uploaded here]
A question arising from the COVID-19 crisis is whether the merits of cases for climate policies have been affected. This article focuses on carbon pricing, in the form of either carbon taxes or emissions trading. It discusses the extent to which relative costs and benefits of introducing carbon pricing may have changed in the context of COVID-19, during both the crisis and the recovery period to follow. In several ways, the case for introducing a carbon price is stronger during the COVID-19 crisis than under normal conditions. Oil costs are lower than normal, so we would expect less harm to consumers compared to normal conditions. Governments have immediate need for diversified new revenue streams in light of both decreased tax receipts and greater use of social safety nets. Finally, supply and demand shocks have led to already destabilized supply-side activities, and carbon pricing would allow this destabilization to equilibrate around greener production for the long-term. The strengthening of the case for introducing carbon pricing now is highly relevant to discussions about recovery measures, especially in the context of policy announcements from the European Union and United States House of Representatives.
Key Policy Insights:
Persistently low oil prices mean that consumers will face lower pain from carbon pricing than under normal conditions.
Many consumers are more price-sensitive during the COVID-19 context, which suggests that a greater relative burden from carbon prices would fall upon producers as opposed to consumers than under normal conditions.
Carbon prices in the COVID-19 context can introduce new revenue streams, assisting with fiscal holes or with other green priorities.
Carbon pricing would contribute to a more sustainable COVID-19 recovery period, since many of the costs of revamping supply chains are already being felt while idled labor capacity can be incorporated into firms with lower carbon-intensity.
I am sympathetic to Avner de-Shalit’s position that a political philosophy which incorporated public values would be laudable, but I see the role that these values should play differently. More specifically, I argue that his claim reflects a confusion about where public values should be introduced. Philosophers of science standardly distinguish between values being introduced in the context of discovery (that is, inputs into the investigation or arguments) and in the context of justification (that is, acceptance or rejection of substantive claims in light of the arguments or investigation). I argue that de-Shalit is wrong to put the public values in the context of discovery; with respect to normative theories (such as political theories), the values should be introduced in the context of justification. Of interest, this placement of that value inverts the assignment philosophers of science often make to value in the scientific process.
[Please note that this the penultimate conditionally accepted version. It will likely change before final publication. Please cite the final version from Economics and Philosophy when it is available.]
Climate ethics has been concerned with polluter pays, beneficiary pays and ability to pay principles, all of which consider climate change as a single negative externality. This paper considers it as a constellation of externalities, positive and negative, with different associated demands of justice. This is important because explicitly considering positive externalities has not to our knowledge been done in the climate ethics literature. Specifically, it is argued that those who enjoy passive gains from climate change owe gains not to the net losers, but to the emitters, just as the emitters owe compensation to the net losers for the negative externality. This is defended by appeal to theoretical virtues and to the social benefits of generating positive externalities, even when those positive externalities are coupled with far greater negative externalities.
This chapter provides an introduction to discounting in the context of climate change. It draws attention to, inter alia, the difference between discounting in pure and impure terms while arguing that appeals to expertise in setting values may be justified in problems of this type.
Utility discounting in intertemporal economic modelling has been viewed as problematic, both for descriptive and normative reasons. However, positive utility discount rates can be defended normatively; in particular, it is rational for future utility to be discounted to take into account model-independent outcomes when decision-making under risk. The resultant values will tend to be smaller than descriptive rates under most probability assignments. This also allows us to address some objections that intertemporal considerations will be overdemanding. A principle for utility discount rates is suggested which is rooted in probability discounting. Utility discounting is defended against objections from Parfit (1984) and Broome (2005, 2012). A sample utility discount rate is estimated. [Open access]
The debate on “Loss and Damage” (L&D) has gained traction over the last few years. Supported by growing scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change amplifying frequency, intensity and duration of climate-related hazards as well as observed increases in climate-related impacts and risks in many regions, the “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage” was established in 2013 and further supported through the Paris Agreement in 2015. Despite advances, the debate currently is broad, diffuse and somewhat confusing, while concepts, methods and tools, as well as directions for policy remain vague and often contested. This book, a joint effort of the Loss and Damage Network—a partnership effort by scientists and practitioners from around the globe—provides evidence-based insight into the L&D discourse by highlighting state-of-the-art research conducted across multiple disciplines, by showcasing applications in practice and by providing insight into policy contexts and salient policy options. This introductory chapter summarises key findings of the twenty-two book chapters in terms of five propositions. These propositions, each building on relevant findings linked to forward-looking suggestions for research, policy and practice, reflect the architecture of the book, whose sections proceed from setting the stage to critical issues, followed by a section on methods and tools, to chapters that provide geographic perspectives, and finally to a section that identifies potential policy options. The propositions comprise (1) Risk management can be an effective entry point for aligning perspectives and debates, if framed comprehensively, coupled with climate justice considerations and linked to established risk management and adaptation practice; (2) Attribution science is advancing rapidly and fundamental to informing actions to minimise, avert, and address losses and damages; (3) Climate change research, in addition to identifying physical/hard limits to adaptation, needs to more systematically examine soft limits to adaptation, for which we find some evidence across several geographies globally; (4) Climate risk insurance mechanisms can serve the prevention and cure aspects emphasised in the L&D debate but solidarity and accountability aspects need further attention, for which we find tentative indication in applications around the world; (5) Policy deliberations may need to overcome the perception that L&D constitutes a win-lose negotiation “game” by developing a more inclusive narrative that highlights collective ambition for tackling risks, mutual benefits and the role of transformation.
Some recent defences of security as a component of well-being appeal to modal concerns where it matters what the distribution is of basic goods across future counterparts. I offer two objections, one related to whether this appeal to security is truly additional and one related to the problematic implication that cross-counterpart axiology would introduce overdemandingness. [Open access, response available at https://doi.org/10.1080/21550085.2018.1562531 ]
While discounting is a familiar moral issue in determining the SCC, we survey several often overlooked moral issues including total utilitarianism given endogenous population growth; valuing non-human animals; and ex ante versus ex post prioritarianism in climate policy. [Open access]
Adverse climatic impacts beyond adaptation (“Loss & Damage”) are rarely distinguished from those impacts resulting from failure to mitigate or adapt. We argue that, at the national level, L&D costs should be covered by appeal to distributive instead of compensatory justice due to current scientific limitations regarding historical responsibility. [Open access]
Our doctoral program produced a blog discussing our climate change research for a lay audience. This chapter discusses the challenges and successes of the blog with reference to communication theory. [Open access]
When performing intertemporal cost-benefit analyses of policies, both in terms of climate change and other long-term problems, the discounting problem becomes critical. The question is how to weight intertemporal costs and benefits to generate present value equivalents. This thesis argues that those best placed to answer the discounting problem are domain experts, not moral philosophers or the public at large. It does this by arguing that the discounting problem is a special case of an interesting class of problems, those which are both what I call morally complex and quantitative. [Doctoral Thesis Summary, Open Access]
Derek Parfit denies that the introduction of reasons into our ontology is costly for his theory. This paper shows that his arguments for this position, the Plural Senses View and the Argument from Empty Ontology, do not establish his claim, demonstrating the instability of Parfit’s claimed metaethical advantages over naturalism. [Open access]
This comment provides two moral arguments against the domestic cost of carbon advocated in Trump's executive order on energy. The first argument is grounded in reinforcing international norms in the context of commons problems; the second argument is grounded in evidence which prevents probabilistic indifference about global effects of emissions from being applicable. [Open access]
This chapter argues that, for decisions under risk, Simon Caney's rights-based approach overgeneralises and that rights-based theories structurally face similar problems. It makes a new moral case for probability discounting on the grounds that moral responsibility for outcomes scales with credence in outcomes.