Scope of the Programme

Work in the Programme is organised in three interconnected streams: Justice and EthicsPolitics and Governance, and Legal Implications.

Justice and Ethics

The Justice and Ethics stream engages with questions about climate ethics and justice at their most abstract using the methods of analytic philosophy (broadly understood). Projects pursued in the stream are being informed by the most recent developments in climate science, giving them a distinctive, scientifically informed character often absent in philosophical approaches to the ethics of climate change. The question at the heart of this stream is: what do present and future people owe to one another in the face of climate change?

Sandbags300Questions that could be addressed by doctoral projects in this stream are as follows.

1. Ethical approaches to uncertainty. What ethical principles ought to guide climate policymaking given the nature and range of uncertainty in scientific knowledge of the processes, impacts, and costs of climate change?

2. Collective agency and responsibility. To what extent does climate science enable the attribution of emissions to groups? Do any of these groups have the agency necessary for assigning moral responsibility for climate change to them? What are the consequences for climate policy of collective responsibility for climate change?

3. Future people. Taking into account the temporal lag between emissions and climate change, and the uncertainties of climate science, what ethical principles ought to guide present conduct, and how ought this to affect the use of a social discount rate in climate policymaking?

4. New technologies. As depletion of the carbon budget becomes increasingly likely policymakers are starting to turn their attention to geoengineering technologies that could slow down warming. What ethical frameworks are appropriate for the assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of these new technologies?

5. Climate refugees. Different climate change scenarios indicate varying types and severity of impacts fit to create different categories of climate refugees. What is owed to different types of climate refugees as a matter of climate justice? And what is owed to those 'left behind' who cannot flee?

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Politics and Governance

The Politics and Governance stream relates to global, regional and domestic proposals for fair mitigation and adaptation, and to the problems and promise of climate treaties at various levels. Work here considers how existing policies, processes and institutions measure up to scientifically well informed standards of fairness and how they feasibly might be improved or replaced so as to realise climate justice. The question at the core of this stream is: how can the institutions and processes of climate governance be made more responsive to scientifically well informed principles of fairness, justice and equity? Questions that could be addressed in this stream are as follows.

1. A global climate treaty. Could the gridlock of negotiations towards a legally binding global climate treaty be overcome by the adoption of a 'club' model which initially limits the number participants in negotiations (over binding and meaningful targets) and makes reaching agreement more feasible? Do ideals of legitimacy and democracy oppose this model?

2. Emissions trading schemes. Do emissions trading schemes inappropriately commodify the absorptive capacity of the Earth's atmosphere? Do they 'crowd out' other morally worthy motivations people could develop for reducing their emissions?

3. Corporations and climate change. What are commercial non state actors required to do in the name of climate justice? How might multinational corporations be reconceived to satisfy these requirements? What changes to the global economy would be required for such multinational corporations to be feasible?

4. Communication of climate science. What are the obligations, if any, of climate scientists to engage with lay people in ways that make the complexities and uncertainties of climate science more accessible? Given the influence of well resourced climate deniers, should climate scientists engage in advocacy?

5. Equity and development. Is there conflict between the goals of development and of the mitigation of climate change? If so, what is the value of development and how can it be weighed against the goal of mitigating climate change? If not, what policies will enable the achievement of both goals without loss?

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Legal Implications

The Legal Implications stream explores the ways in which core legal principles and institutions could provide a framework within which ethically informed and scientifically well supported climate policies and governance could be effective. Work in this stream focuses in particular on tort law, international criminal law, and human rights law. The question at the core of this stream is: what are the implications of a commitment to climate justice for bodies of domestic, regional and international law? Questions that could be addressed in this stream are:

1. Climate change as an international crime. Does the emissions conduct of various high emitting groups - national, corporate, economic - stand as an international crime? In what ways might climate science provide evidence in prosecutions, or defences, in an international criminal court?

2. Climate justice litigation. To what extent can litigation by social movement actors help further the causes of climate justice? How have scientific models been employed, and what part have climate scientists played, in such litigation?

3. Ecological citizenship. How does ecological citizenship address the problems of climate change? In what ways could legal frameworks encourage ecological citizenship? How does this virtue based approach complement, or conflict with, other legal and political strategies for tackling climate change?

4. Risk and precaution. Is the 'precautionary principle' at the heart of International Environmental Law a principle of climate justice? Do the forms of uncertainty under which this principle mandates political action accurately represent the varieties of scientific uncertainty about climate change?

5. Campaign finance and climate change denial. How have fossil fuel backed interventions in US politics affected US and global action on climate change? Should the political donations of fossil fuel companies be protected by the First Amendment? What reforms to campaign finance in the US, and other democracies, would work best to promote climate justice?

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The application deadline has now passed for the final round of scholarships.

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