Publications

In Preparation
Mintz-Woo, K. (In Preparation). Knowing When You've Made a Climate Difference.Abstract
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]
paper_no-difference_blind_sep2119.pdf
Mintz-Woo, K. (In Preparation). Draining the Swamp, Together.Abstract
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]
truth-blinded-jul2019.pdf
Mintz-Woo, K., Schinko, T., & Mechler, R. (In Preparation). Historical Responsibilities for Loss and Damage.Abstract
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.]
Mintz-Woo, K., & Leroux, J. (In Preparation). The Obligations of Climate Winners.Abstract

 

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.

 

do_carbon_net_winners_have_a_duty_to_society-pdf-feb1820.pdf
Mintz-Woo, K. (In Preparation). Modality and Social Goods.Abstract

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]
against_robustness_-_jul2119.pdf
Forthcoming
Mintz-Woo, K. (Forthcoming). Public Values in the Right Context.Abstract
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.
public_values_in_the_right_context-online_version_apr2220.pdf
Mintz-Woo, K. (Forthcoming). A Philosopher's Guide to Discounting. In T. McPherson, M. Budolfson, & D. Plunkett (Ed.), Philosophy & Climate Change . Oxford, Oxford University Press.Abstract

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.

mintz-woo-a_philosophers_guide_to_discounting-online_word_version_feb1820.pdf
2019
Principled Utility Discounting Under Risk
Mintz-Woo, K. (2019). Principled Utility Discounting Under Risk. Moral Philosophy and Politics , 6 (1), 89-112. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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]

Science for Loss and Damage. Findings and Propositions
Mechler, R., Calliari, E., Bouwer, L. M., Schinko, T., Surminski, S., Linnerooth-Bayer, J., Aerts, J., et al. (2019). Science for Loss and Damage. Findings and Propositions. In R. Mechler, L. M. Bouwer, T. Schinko, S. Surminski, & J. Linnerooth-Bayer (Ed.), Loss and Damage from Climate Change: Concepts, Methods and Policy Options (pp. 3-37) . Cham, Springer. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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.

[Open access]

Security and Distribution, or Should You Care About Merely Possible Losses?
Mintz-Woo, K. (2019). Security and Distribution, or Should You Care About Merely Possible Losses? Ethics, Policy & Environment , 21 (3), 382-386. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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 ]

The Social Cost of Carbon: Valuing Inequality, Risk, and Population for Climate Policy
Fleurbaey, M., Ferranna, M., Budolfson, M., Dennig, F., Mintz-Woo, K., Socolow, R., Spears, D., et al. (2019). The Social Cost of Carbon: Valuing Inequality, Risk, and Population for Climate Policy. J. Broome (Ed.), The Monist , 102 (1), 84–109. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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]

Ethical Challenges in the Context of Climate Loss & Damage
Wallimann-Helmer, I., Meyer, L., Mintz-Woo, K., Schinko, T., & Serdeczny, O. (2019). Ethical Challenges in the Context of Climate Loss & Damage. In R. Mechler, L. M. Bouwer, T. Schinko, S. Surminski, & J. Linnerooth-Bayer (Ed.), Loss and Damage from Climate Change: Concepts, Methods and Policy Options (pp. 39-62) . Cham, Springer. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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]

Blogging Climate Change: A Case Study
Sajeev, E. P. M., Mintz-Woo, K., Damert, M., Brunner, L., & Eise, J. (2019). Blogging Climate Change: A Case Study. In W. L. Filho, B. Lackner, & H. McGhie (Ed.), Addressing the Challenges in Communicating Climate Change Across Various Audiences (pp. 129-142) . Cham, Springer. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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]

2018
Moral Uncertainty Over Policy Evaluation
Mintz-Woo, K. (2018). Moral Uncertainty Over Policy Evaluation. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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]

On Parfit's Ontology
Mintz-Woo, K. (2018). On Parfit's Ontology. Canadian Journal of Philosophy , 48 (5), 707-725. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract

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]

Two Moral Arguments for a Global Social Cost of Carbon
Mintz-Woo, K. (2018). Two Moral Arguments for a Global Social Cost of Carbon. Ethics, Policy & Environment , 21 (1), 60-63. Link to Published Version [Open Access]Abstract
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]
2017
A new defence of probability discounting
Mintz-Woo, K. (2017). A new defence of probability discounting. In A. Walsh, S. Hormio, & D. Purves (Ed.), The Ethical Underpinnings of Climate Economics (pp. 87-102) . Oxford, Routledge. Link to Published VersionAbstract
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.
chapter6only.pdf
2015
Book Review: Environmental Ethics: From Theory to Practice
Mintz-Woo, K. (2015). Book Review: Environmental Ethics: From Theory to Practice. Ethical Perspectives , 22 (4), 732-735. Link to Published VersionAbstract

Written by Marion Hourdequin. Published in 2015 by Bloomsbury Academic.

mintz-woo-marion_hourdequin._environmental_ethics_from_theory_to_practice-2015.pdf