Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice: What are our obligations to future generations?

11 February 2011

Climate change raises profound questions of intergenerational justice. It is widely recognized that there is a powerful case for mitigation in virtue of obligations we have to future generations. But how much mitigation is required? Is the widely held view that humanity should act so as to prevent anything higher than two degrees celsius increase in temperatures over pre-industrial temperatures an appropriate one? Should the upper limit be lower than that? How should we decide? Answers to this depend not simply on scientific and social scientific projections but also on assumptions about how much is owed to our contemporaries and how much is owed to future generations. Dr Caney will explore several ways of thinking about intergenerational justice that have been proposed by philosophers, economists and policymakers.