A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change

Overview


Climate change is arguably the great problem confronting humanity, but we have done little to head off this looming catastrophe. In The Perfect Moral Storm, philosopher Stephen Gardiner illuminates our dangerous inaction by placing the environmental crisis in an entirely new light, considering it as an ethical failure. Gardiner clarifies the moral situation, identifying the temptations (or "storms") that make us vulnerable to a certain kind of corruption. First, the world's most affluent nations are tempted to ...
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A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change

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Overview


Climate change is arguably the great problem confronting humanity, but we have done little to head off this looming catastrophe. In The Perfect Moral Storm, philosopher Stephen Gardiner illuminates our dangerous inaction by placing the environmental crisis in an entirely new light, considering it as an ethical failure. Gardiner clarifies the moral situation, identifying the temptations (or "storms") that make us vulnerable to a certain kind of corruption. First, the world's most affluent nations are tempted to pass on the cost of climate change to the poorer and weaker citizens of the world. Second, the present generation is tempted to pass the problem on to future generations. Third, our poor grasp of science, international justice, and the human relationship to nature helps to facilitate inaction. As a result, we are engaging in willful self-deception when the lives of future generations, the world's poor, and even the basic fabric of life on the planet is at stake. We should wake up to this profound ethical failure, Gardiner concludes, and demand more of our institutions, our leaders and ourselves.

"This is a radical book, both in the sense that it faces extremes and in the sense that it goes to the roots." --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"The book's strength lies in Gardiner's success at understanding and clarifying the types of moral issues that climate change raises, which is an important first step toward solutions." --Science Magazine

"Gardiner has expertly explored some very instinctual and vitally important considerations which cannot realistically be ignored. --Required reading." --Green Prophet

"Gardiner makes a strong case for highlighting and insisting on the ethical dimensions of the climate problem, and his warnings about buck-passing and the dangerous appeal of moral corruptions hit home." --Times Higher Education

"Stephen Gardiner takes to a new level our understanding of the moral dimensions of climate change. A Perfect Moral Storm argues convincingly that climate change is the greatest moral challenge our species has ever faced - and that the problem goes even deeper than we think." --Peter Singer, Princeton University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Gardiner has expertly explored some very instinctual and vitally important considerations which cannot realistically be ignored. --Required reading." --Robin Whitlock, Green Prophet

"Gardiner makes a strong case for highlighting and insisting on the ethical dimensions of the climate problem, and his warnings about buck-passing and the dangerous appeal of moral corruptions hit home." --Steve Yearley, Times Higher Education

"Stephen Gardiner takes to a new level our understanding of the moral dimensions of climate change. A Perfect Moral Storm argues convincingly that climate change is the greatest moral challenge our species has ever faced -- and that the problem goes even deeper than we think." --Peter Singer, Princeton University

"This is a radical book, both in the sense that it faces extremes and in the sense that it goes to the roots." -- Holmes Rolston, III, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Everyone who is interested in ethics, the future of her children, or the welfare of the planet, should read this book. Clear, analytically precise, and superbly written, Gardiner does practical philosophy at its very best. In analyzing the ethics of climate change, no moral philosopher anywhere does a better job than Gardiner. He sets the standard for work in this area." --Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Philosophy and Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame

"Gardiner's A Perfect Moral Storm sets a new standard in erudition, philosophical rigor, and interdisciplinary breadth in discussions of climate ethics. This book should be read by any philosopher, scientist, or policy-maker who is serious about addressing the moral challenge with which climate change confronts us." --Dale Jamieson, Environmental Studies and Philosophy, New York University

"Written with great authority and lucidity, A Perfect Moral Storm identifies exactly why our ethical theories and intuitions have been found wanting in relation to climate change. Before seeking to remove the speck in other people's eyes--laying the blame--it is best to remove the log in one's own. Gardiner's book helps us to do just that: for professionals, students and advocates alike. This will be an important benchmark analysis for years to come." -- Mike Hulme, Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

"In the most penetrating analysis yet Gardiner convincingly shows the sources of the dangers likely to be our frightful legacy to coming generations. With steely foresight he pioneers the exploration of the climate abysses, including geo-engineering, that shamefully bad idea whose time seems ready to come." --Henry Shue, Politics and International Relations, Oxford University

"A Perfect Moral Storm exposes the multiple hidden agendas behind the fiery but largely vacuous public debate that focuses on the credibility of climate change science. By challenging us to acknowledge and come to grips with the profound ethical dimensions of global, intergenerational issues like human induced climate change, Gardiner's book will help us to understand and hopefully to move beyond the current impasse in environmental policy legislation." --Mike Wallace, Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington

"Gardiner's is a distinctive voice at the forefront of contemporary debates about the ethical implications of climate change. Much of what he writes is profoundly unsettling, revealing not only the nature and scale of the problem facing us -- a perfect moral storm --but also why it is so hard for us to shift the personal and institutionalized motivations that are leading us into an already unfolding global environmental tragedy. I expect the book to be highly influential in shaping ethical debate in the years to come." --Tim Hayward, Environmental Political Theory, University of Edinburgh

"The book's strength lies in Gardiner's success at understanding and clarifying the types of moral issues that climate change raises, which is an important first step toward solutions." --Science Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199985142
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/1/2013
  • Series: ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AND SCIENCE POLICY Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 518
  • Sales rank: 671,446
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen M. Gardiner is Professor of Philosophy and Ben Rabinowitz Endowed Professor of Human Dimensions of the Environment at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the coordinating co-editor of Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (Oxford, 2010), and the editor of Virtue Ethics: Old and New (Cornell, 2005). He is currently co-editing the Oxford Handbook on Environmental Ethics with Allen Thompson.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgements

Introduction: A Global Environmental Tragedy
I. Some Assumptions
II. Introducing the Perfect Storm Metaphor
III. Climate Change
IV. The Wider Relevance of the Model
V. Outline of the Book

Part A: Overview

Chapter 1: A Perfect Moral Storm
I. Why Ethics?
II. The Global Storm
III. The Intergenerational Storm
IV. The Theoretical Storm
V. The Problem of Moral Corruption

Chapter 2: A Consumption Tragedy
I. What is the Point of Game Theory?
II. Motivating the Models
III. A Green Energy Revolution?
IV. Consumption and Happiness

Part B: The Global Storm

Chapter 3: Somebody Else's Problem
I. Past Climate Policy
II. Somebody Else's Burden
III. Against Optimism
IV. Conclusion

Chapter 4: In the Shadow of a Common Tragedy
I. Climate Prisoners?
II. An Evolving Tragedy
III. Beyond Pessimism
IV. Lingering Tragedy
V. Climate Policy in the Shadows
VI. Conclusion

Part C: The Intergenerational Storm

Chapter 5: The Tyranny of the Contemporary
I. Problems with 'Generations'
II. Intergenerational Buck-Passing
III. Intergenerational Buck-Passing vs. The Prisoners' Dilemma
IV. The Features of the Pure Intergenerational Problem
V. Applications and Complications
VI. Mitigating Factors
VII. The Non-Identity Problem: A Quick Aside
VIII. Conclusion

Chapter 6: An Intergenerational Arms Race?
I. Abrupt Climate Change
II. Three Causes of Political Inertia
III. Against Undermining
IV. Conclusion

Part D: The Theoretical Storm

Chapter 7: A Global Test for Political Institutions and Theories
I. The Global Test
II. Scenarios
III. A Conjecture
IV. Theoretical Vices
V. An Illustration: Utilitarianism
VI. Understanding the Complaint
VII. Conclusion

Chapter 8: Cost-Benefit Paralysis
I. Cost-Benefit Analysis in Normal Contexts
II. CBA for Climate Change
III. The Presumption Against Discounting
IV. The Basic Economics of the Discount Rate
V. Discounting the Rich?
VI. Declining Discount Rates
VII. Two Objections to "Not Discounting"
VIII. The "Devil's in the Details" Argument
IX. Conclusions

Part E: Moral Corruption

Chapter 9: Jane Austen vs. Climate Economics
I. Corruption
II. The Dubious Dashwoods: Initial Parallels
III. The Opening Assault on the Status of the Moral Claim
IV. The Assault on Content
V. Indirect Attacks
VI. The Moral of the Story

Chapter 10: Geoengineering in an Atmosphere of Evil
I. An Idea that is Changing the World
II. The Problem of Political Inertia Revisited
III. Two Preliminary Arguments: Cost and "Research First"?
IV. Arming the Future
V. Arm the Present?
VI. Evolving Shadows
VII. Underestimating 'Evil'
VIII. An Atmosphere of Evil?
IX. "But... Should We Do It?"

Part F: What Now?

Conclusion: The Immediate Future

Postscript: Some Initial Ethics of the Transition
I. Introduction
II. The Ethics of Skepticism
III. Past Emissions
IV. Future Emissions
V. Responsibility
VI. Ideal Theory
VII. Conclusion

Appendices

Appendix 1: The Population Tragedy
I. Hardin's Analysis
II. Population as a Tragedy of the Commons
III. Total Environmental Impact
IV. Conclusion

Appendix 2: Epistemic Corruption and Scientific Uncertainty in
Michael Crichton's State of Fear
I. What the Scientists Know
II. Certainty, Guesswork and the Missing Middle
III. Conclusion

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