Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed -- and What It Means for Our Future

Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed -- and What It Means for Our Future

by Dale Jamieson


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From the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference there was a concerted international effort to stop climate change. Yet greenhouse gas emissions increased, atmospheric concentrations grew, and global warming became an observable fact of life.

In this book, philosopher Dale Jamieson explains what climate change is, why we have failed to stop it, and why it still matters what we do. Centered in philosophy, the volume also treats the scientific, historical, economic, and political dimensions of climate change. Our failure to prevent or even to respond significantly to climate change, Jamieson argues, reflects the impoverishment of our systems of practical reason, the paralysis of our politics, and the limits of our cognitive and affective capacities. The climate change that is underway is remaking the world in such a way that familiar comforts, places, and ways of life will disappear in years or decades rather than centuries.

Climate change also threatens our sense of meaning, since it is difficult to believe that our individual actions matter. The challenges that climate change presents go beyond the resources of common sense morality — it can be hard to view such everyday acts as driving and flying as presenting moral problems. Yet there is much that we can do to slow climate change, to adapt to it and restore a sense of agency while living meaningful lives in a changing world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199337668
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2014
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Dale Jamieson teaches Environmental Studies, Philosophy, and Law at New York University, and was formerly affiliated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He is the author of Ethics and the Environment: An Introduction, and Morality's Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Nature of the Problem
2.1 The Development of Climate Science
2.2 Climate Change as a Public Issue
2.3 The Age of Climate Diplomacy
2.4 Concluding Remarks

3. Obstacles to Action
3.1 Scientific Ignorance
3.2 Politicizing Science
3.3 Facts and Values
3.4 The Science/Policy Interface
3.5 Organized Denial
3.6 Partisanship
3.7 Political Institutions
3.8 The Hardest Problem
3.9 Concluding Remarks

4. The Limits of Economics
4.1 Economics and Climate Change
4.2 The Stern Review and Its Critics
4.3 Discounting
4.4 Further Problems
4.5 State of the Discussion
4.6 Concluding Remarks

5. The Frontiers of Ethics
5.1 The Domain of Concern
5.2 Responsibility and Harm
5.3 Fault Liability
5.4 Human Rights and Domination
5.5 Differences That Matter
5.6 Revising Morality
5.7 Concluding Remarks

6. Living With Climate Change
6.1 Life in the Anthropocene
6.2 It Doesn't Matter What I Do
6.3 It's Not the Meat It's the Motion
6.4 Ethics for the Anthropocene
6.5 Respect For Nature
6.6 Global Justice
6.7 Concluding Remarks

7. Politics, Policy, and the Road Ahead
7.1 The Rectification of Names
7.2 Adaptation: The Neglected Option?
7.3 Why Abatement and Mitigation Still Matter
7.4 The Category Formerly Known as Geoengineering
7.5 The Way Forward
7.6 Concluding Remarks

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Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed -- and What It Means for Our Future 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
leopardiNJ More than 1 year ago
The collapse of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009 marked a critical turning point in humanity's response to global climate change.  After that meeting, there could not be any idealistic illusions about the path the human race would take in response to changing climate - by-and-large the world would go about business as usual - fossil fuel consumption and the accompanying rise in atmospheric CO2 would continue largely unabated; the atmosphere would continue to heat up and sea-levels would continue to rise. etc.  What about these adverse effects of climate change?  We'll deal with it when it happens. Dale Jamieson, a professor of philosophy and environmental studies at the New York University, describes himself in the opening pages of Reason in a Dark Time as a realist, but not a pessimist.  For the most part he clearly accepts the basic fundamentals of the science of climate change, but, unlike others (the so-called "alarmists") he does not set out in this book to make any prescriptions for fundamental changes in human behavior (with the exception of calling for an end to the use of coal as a fuel.)  Rather, as he writes, his goal is to "..make the reader think." Reason in a Dark Time starts off with a very well-written synopsis of the science and policy history of climate change - Jamieson clearly demonstrates a command of the historical and scientific fundamentals.  In three subsequent chapters of the book, amounting to more than half of the text, the author unfortunately descends into what amounts to a scholarly, academic literature review of the philosophical, economic and ethical reasons for the collapse of the climate-change response.  Jamieson leaves no moral/ethical/economic stone unturned.  Unfortunately this section of the book is full of abrupt shifts in topic and is too-often bogged down in pointless definitions.  Philosophers may have abandoned the trappings of religion, but they still can spend a lifetime arguing about how many angels can sit on the head of a pin.  These lengthy discussions leave the reader exhausted without being much informed and leave little space for the future as discussed in the last two chapters. As noted before, Jamieson is to be commended for avoiding idealism in his discussion of the future response of humanity to climate change.  But, unfortunately, what future he does project is simply not fleshed out enough.  Yes, geo-engineering is likely the wrong path.  And, yes, it is interesting that humanity may in fact end up "thinking globally, but acting locally" as the environmentalists have been advocating all along, but what is that likely to consist of?  Jamieson misses the opportunity for a non-scientist's, non-activist's objective exploration of the possibilities. Reason in a Dark Time contains a comprehensive and excellent bibliography of the social science and philosophical literature of climate change and a short, but adequate index. Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University