PP3FPCE-Future People and Climate Ethics

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr James Andow

Email: j.andow@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

The climate is changing dramatically. Unless we take action now, many future generations of the planet stand to suffer great hardships. Despite the enormity of the issue, current generations of the planet consistently fail to take any significant action to combat climate change. COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 was a disaster. There was briefly a period of optimism after COP21 in Paris in 2015. Now, it is feared, Donald Trump’s presidency is likely to have a devastating effect on global efforts to combat climate change. Why do current generations exhibit this apparent moral failure? Can inaction be justified? This module introduces students to some of key ethical issues surrounding climate change and our relationship with the future generations of the planet who do not yet exist.


This module fits into our graduated, supervised programme for developing independent-learning skills. This module will help students develop their ability to apply philosophical ideas and reasoning to current, global issues concerning policy-making and technology. Students will build on their existing competencies in philosophical writing, to get to grips with the challenges of writing for policy makers and the public. This module will be a great foundation for students interested in taking independent study modules

The programme of study in Philosophy is specifically designed to introduce students to progressive intellectual challenges and to consolidate their previous experience at each new level. The module will help students develop deeper understanding of concepts introduced at Pts.1 and 2, particularly in PP1ML (The Meaning of Life), PP2EA (Ethical Argument), and PP2OIED (Oppression, Inequality and the Enemies of Democracy).

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain an awareness of various philosophical perspectives on the ethics of climate change. Students will understand and be able to evaluate arguments for and against relevant positions. Students will develop their communication skills in writing for policy makers and the public. 

Additional outcomes:

Students will be able to apply their knowledge and understanding gained in other modules including modules in ethics, political philosophy and epistemology. Students will develop their general ability to articulate the relevance and applicability of philosophical theories to ‘real world’ issues.

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include:

  • Altruism

    Does effective climate change action require altruistic motives?

    If so, is effective climate change action doomed to failure?


  • Geoengineering

    Should we use large-scale technology to intervene directly in the climate system?

  • Discounting

    Are we justified in prioritising our own interests over those of future generations in policy making?

  • Non-identity problem

    Can climate change be said to harm future generations?

    If not, how could our inaction be problem?

Global context:

Climate change is a global phenomenon.  Students on this module will gain an appreciation of the ethical, political, economic and social implications of climate change.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write a single essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. The essay assignment will be due in week 5 of the Summer term. In addition, students will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion in each seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 5
Guided independent study 85
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class. Some classes may involve quizzes.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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