Sonoma State University

Philosophy 200

Philosophical Issues in Global Climate Change

Uncertainty, Caution, Community, Equity, Future

Links from "Death Heath"


Links from "Death Heath"


Centre for Science and Environment (India) Climate Campaign

The Global Commons Institute (GCI)

An independent group concerned with the protection of the global commons. The global commons is the common heritage of all humanity. It comprises those features of the geo-biosphere - such as forests, biodiversity, oceans and global atmosphere.- that in combination form the global climate system

The Climate Action Network (CAN)

A worldwide network of over 340 Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.


An organization aimed at advancing the principle of equal rights to global common resources. More immediately, we've founded EcoEquity to fill the need for a U.S.-based organization focused on clarifying and promoting the principles of equity necessary for a just and effective climate treaty. We see ourselves as being simultaneously members of the climate movement and the global justice movement.

Redefining Progress

Redefining Progress (RP) works with a broad array of partners to shift the economy and public policy towards sustainability. RP measures the real state of our economy, our environment, and social justice with tools like the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Ecological Footprint

Environmental Justice and Climate Change

The mission of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change initiative is to educate and activate the peoples of North America to drive the creation and implementation of just climate policies. The primary focus of our work is to change policies and practices in the United States, but our perspective and the context for our work is international.

Third World Network

Rising Tide International

"Rising Tide is an international network of groups and individuals committed to a grassroots approach to fighting for climate justice. We believe that the Kyoto protocol will fail to combat the climate change crisis. Instead, the protocol promotes the self-interest of industrialised nations and corporations, marginalising issues of global equity and the environment."

Climate Justice Initiative

A CorpWatch program that works with communities affected by the oil industry in the U.S. and internationally to address the connections between local pollution and global warming.

The United States Sky Trust

"US Sky Trust, Inc. (USST) is a private non-profit trust (in formation) that is preparing to manage America's share of the atmosphere's limited carbon absorption capacity. The goal of the USST is to benefit American citizens and families by protecting the sky - our shared inheritance. It will be a private sector mechanism for reducing U.S. carbon emissions with minimum economic pain and maximum social equity."

Tellus - Energy Group: Energy Environment and Economy Program

"Tellus conducts an extensive research program on issues related to global climate change, such as greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and scenarios, greenhouse gas mitigation assessment, capacity building in developing countries, greenhouse gas externality and co-benefits valuation, and carbon tax studies. Our projects feature the development, application, and dissemination of appropriate, state-of-the art computer models, such as PoleStar, EXMOD, WastePlan, and others. Tellus and SEI-B staff have worked for numerous agencies in the U.S. and abroad on carbon taxes, externality adders, and other policy mechanisms to address climate change concerns."

Choose Climate

"Interactive model linking climate science & policy based on IPCC-TAR formulae. Adjust parameters with your mouse and see an instant response on plots from emissions to impacts. Explore cause-effect links in the climate system, and the sensitivity of predictions to uncertainties and policy options."

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)

SEI is an independent, international research institute specializing in sustainable development and environment issues. It works at local, national, regional and global policy levels. The SEI research programmes aim to clarify the requirements, strategies and policies for a transition to sustainability. These goals are linked to the principles advocated in Agenda 21 and the Conventions such as Climate Change, Ozone Layer Protection and Biological Diversity.

Friends of the Earth

"Friends of the Earth is calling for urgent action to stop humans intensifying climate change, the biggest environmental threat to the planet.

We are demanding strong national emissions reductions targets, and have initiated lawsuits against the world's worst polluters, including major oil corporations, the US government and financial institutions.

We are challenging a number of big oil projects around the world that will accelerate climate change.

We have also joined forces with climate-affected communities to build a global movement that addresses social and economic equity between and within countries."

Intergovernmental and National Bodies

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been established by WMO and UNEP to assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is open to all Members of the UN and of WMO."

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The Kyoto Protocol


Books and Essays

Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions

"This study originated from a White House request to help inform the Administration's ongoing review of U.S. climate change policy. In particular, the written request (Appendix A) asked for the National Academies' "assistance in identifying the areas in the science of climate change where there are the greatest certainties and uncertainties," and "views on whether there are any substantive differences between the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Reports and the IPCC summaries." "

Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead

"This path-breaking essay presents a fresh vision for a sustainable world. It describes the historic roots, current dynamics, future perils, and alternative pathways for world development. It advances one of these paths, Great Transition, as the preferred route, identifying strategies, agents of change, and values for a new global agenda."

Green Politics

"Green Politics , the first in a series of publications on global environmental negotiations (GEN) provides a close analysis of important environment-related conventions and institutions from their origins, and demystifies the global politics behind 'saving the environment'. The book presents a first-ever comprehensive Southern perspective of the impact of global environmental governance on the real lives of real people. Rather than promoting democracy and equality and building a just framework for future governance, environmental negotiations have turned into business transactions, where the rich and powerful often trample on the poor and weak."

Poles Apart

"The Global Environmental Negotiations (GEN) series provide information on environment-related treaties, negotiations and institutions. Poles Apart, the second in the series of books on the politics of global environmental governance (GEN). This book contains updates on the issues dealt within the first report, Green Politics . It contains new chapters on five conventions and institutions."

Global Warming in an Unequal World

"Offers a critique of the assumptions made in the World Resources Institute (WRI) / UNEP / UNDP report on global warming and its attempts to link the results of its report with global climate convention negotiations.

Perhaps for the first time, this book brings into question a vital issue ingeniously sidestepped by the WRI report - the issue of equity and contends that it is not right to equate 'luxury emissions' of the First World with 'survival emissions' of the Third World. It also proposes the introduction of global treadable emission quotas to control future emissions."

The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription by Ross Gelbspan

""The Heat is On" is a well-researched, detailed description of how the coal and oil industries are trying (and succeeding) to confuse the issue of global warming today. In this frightening expos?, Ross Gelbspan shows how the fossil fuel industries are spending millions of dollars to confuse the public through misleading advertising and PR tactics in order to protect their financial interests. The story behind this campaign of lies is astounding."

Readers' Reviews

Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists and Activists Have Fueled the Climate Crisis -- And What We Can Do To Avert Disaster, By Ross Gelbspan (Basic Books, Aug. 2004)

"Gelbspan, a Pulitzer Prize&endash;winning journalist, offers no less than a call to arms in this treatise on how global warming is a threat and how it can be avoided. Gelbspan expands the argument about global warming: not only is the current U.S. administration to blame, but journalists and activists are as well. Journalists, he says, are culpable because they are minimizing the story; activists, while well-meaning, are so busy trying to form alliances and make compromises that they lose sight of a problem that Gelbspan believes could ultimately compromise the planet. Gelbspan writes clearly, and he argues that Republican members of Congress have latched onto theories of the few scientists who don't believe that global warming is a major problem."

Readers' Reviews

Dead Heat: Globilization and Global Warming, by Tom Athanasiou and Paul Baer

"The authors explain the science behind global warming, outline the political reasons that governments have not acted to reverse climate change, and argue that both environmental and economic factors must be considered to create a solution that puts public good before corporate profit."

Readers' Reviews

The Discovery of Global Warming, by Spencer R. Weart

"It took a century for scientists to agree that gases produced by human activity were causing the world to warm up. Now, in an engaging book that reads like a detective story, physicist Weart (Scientists in Power; Nuclear Fear) reports the history of global warming theory, including the internal conflicts plaguing the research community and the role government has had in promoting climate studies. Some researchers, he writes, pursued red herrings, while others on the right track often could not get attention or funding. Still others made classic errors but uncovered significant seeds of truth in the process. With just enough scientific detail and plenty of biographical narrative, Weart conveys the difficulties of studying vast, chaotic weather systems. As one of the profiled researchers puts it, the earth's climate is "a capricious beast"; instead of taking its threat seriously, he says, we have been "poking it with a sharp stick." Weart's goal is "to help the reader understand our predicament by explaining how we got here.""

Readers' Reviews

The Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era, by Jeremy K. Leggett

"While explaining the science behind global warming in a manner easily accessible to the nonspecialist, Leggett originally a petroleum geologist, then a Greenpeace director and now a solar energy entrepreneur takes us on a whirlwind eight-year personal journey through the world's climate negotiations. From the first major meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1990 through the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to the historic Kyoto Climate Summit in 1997, Leggett provides an insider's perspective on the negotiations and many of the key players. As compelling as a good thriller, the book deftly describes the machinations of what Leggett calls "the carbon club" or "the foot soldiers for the fossil-fuel industries." Working behind the scenes, these lobbyists have been successful in stalling and diluting every agreement reached to date. All the while, as Leggett explains, the world warms and climatic disasters increase."

Readers' Reviews

Climate Change Policy: A Survey by Stephen H. Schneider, A. Rosencranz, and J. Niles (eds.)

"Questions surrounding the issue of climate change are evolving from "Is it happening?" to "What can be done about it?" The primary obstacles to addressing it at this point are not scientific but political and economic; nonetheless a quick resolution is unlikely.

Ignorance and confusion surrounding the issue-including a lack of understanding of climate science, its implications for the environment and society, and the range of policy options available-contributes to the political morass over dealing with climate change in which we find ourselves. Climate Change Policy addresses that situation by bringing together a wide range of new writings from leading experts that examine the many dimensions of the topics most important in understanding climate change and policies to combat it."

Readers' Reviews

The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, by Richard Heinberg

"The world is about to run out of cheap oil and change dramatically. Within the next few years, global production will peak. Thereafter, even if industrial societies begin to switch to alternative energy sources, they will have less net energy each year to do all the work essential to the survival of complex societies. We are entering a new era, as different from the industrial era as the latter was from medieval times."

Readers' Reviews

Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment, by James Gustave Speth

"Speth, dean of the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, sounds the alarm on the seriousness of the global environmental crisis. Although he contends that it is not too late to avert disaster, he stresses that we are running out of time and that we can't afford to let current trends continue. He acknowledges that there have been a few hopeful developments, such as the ban on ozone-depleting chemicals around the world, but overall, he argues that little has been accomplished by a plethora of international conferences, negotiations, action plans and treaties. The failure, for which he says the U.S. must take much of the blame, stems from a focus on the symptoms rather than on the underlying causes of environmental degradation, such as population size, affluence and technology. He underscores the necessity of achieving sustainability-living off nature's income rather than consuming its capital-and lists eight transitions that are necessary to redefine and redirect growth on a global level."

Readers' Reviews

One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future, by Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich

"The Ehrlichs' provocative and eminently readable look at current environmental trends takes its title from Rudyard Kipling's poem "Recessional," which contrasts the pomp of the 19th-century British empire to the faded glory of Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire. The Ehrlichs (Betrayal of Science and Reason), both members of Stanford's department of biological sciences, look at the global problems of overpopulation, overconsumption, and political and economic inequity that threaten to make the world into a new fallen Nineveh. Each of the book's nine chapters analyzes one area in detail (using current research in ecology, demographics, migration, economics, biodiversity, ethics, climate, politics and globalization) and then suggests measures "that might allow humanity in general, and the world's sole remaining superpower in particular, to alter course and work towards achieving a sustainable world.""

Readers' Reviews

State of the World 2004, by Brian Halweil, et al., The Worldwatch Institute

"n State of the World 2004, the Worldwatch Institute's award-winning research team focuses on consumption, pointing to the many ways in which our consumption habits drive ecological and social deterioration, as well as how these habits can be redirected to reinforce environmental and social goals. As always, State of the World 2004 provides government officials, journalists, professors, students, and concerned citizens with a comprehensive analysis of the global environmental problems we face along with detailed descriptions of practical, innovative solutions&emdash;like charting the most environmentally sound path to a hydrogen-fueled economy, or accelerating the rapidly growing conversion of farmers worldwide to organic farming and sustainable agriculture."

Readers' Reviews

Who Owns the Sky: Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism, by Peter Barnes (Washington: Island Press, 2001)

"Global warming has finally made clear the true costs of using our atmosphere as a giant sponge to soak up unwanted by-products of industrial activity. As nations, businesses, and citizens seek workable yet fair solutions for reducing carbon emissions, the question of who should pay-and how-looms large. Yet the surprising truth is that a system for protecting the atmosphere could be devised that would yield cash benefits to us all.

In Who Owns the Sky?, visionary entrepreneur Peter Barnes redefines the debate about the costs and benefits of addressing climate change. He proposes a market-based institution called a Sky Trust that would set limits on carbon emissions and pay dividends to all of us, who collectively own the atmosphere as a commons. The Trust would be funded by requiring polluters to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, and managed by a non-governmental agency. Dividends would be paid annually, in much the same way that residents of Alaska today receive cash benefits from oil companies that drill in their state."

Readers' Reviews

Review by Tom Athanasiou (July 2001)

"Equity, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Global Common Resources" A philosophical argument by Paul Baer for equal rights to global common resources. In Climate Change Policy: A Survey, eds. S. H. Schneider, A. Rosencranz, and J. Niles (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2002).


"Equity and Greenhouse Gas Responsibility in Climate Policy" by P. Baer et al. (Science 289 (2000):2287)

"Seeking Fair Weather: Ethics and the International Debate on Climate Change" by Michael J. Grubb. International Affairs 71 (1995):463-96)


The Respectable Politics of Climate Change: The Epistemic Communities and NGOs. By: Gough, Clair and Siman Shackley. International Affairs, 77 (2001): Issue 2

"Discusses changes in the role of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and epistemic communities in policy-making processes involving climate change. Empowerment of the NGO by giving it a place at the negotiating table; Ability of the NGO to retain flexibility in its strategies and interactions with government and science; Prospect of adopting separate national and international identities."


"International Justice and Global Warming" by Matthew Paterson , in The Ethical Dimensions of Global Change, ed. B. Holden (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001), 181-201


"Subsistence Emissions and Luxury Emissions", by Henry Shue, Law and Policy 15 (1993):39-59.


Self-Interested Principles of Justice in Distribution and a Law of Peoples in an Interrelated World, by Alan Martina

"An implication of the argument developed by Rawls in Political Liberalism (1993a) is that it is in the self-interest of members of a community, closed to contact with other communities, to agree to the adoption of his system of justice in distribution. Nevertheless, in the article 'The Law of Peoples' (1993b) Rawls indicates that his theory of justice is not applicable in the international setting. It would seem that this point of view requires revision in the light of the accumulation of more recent relevant facts, and theoretical ideas built upon these facts, to be found in some recent literature from economics and the natural sciences. This literature implies that it is in the self-interest of nations to adopt a more egalitarian set of prudential principles, for assessing distributional issues between various peoples in the world, than that suggested by Rawls. The present discussion attempts to substantiate this point of view. Some of the arguments developed here extend those provided by Pogge (1994) in his criticism of the argument to be found in 'The Law of Peoples'."

The Distribution of Technologically Mediated Environmental Risk, by Stephen Anthony Healy

"Technologically mediated hazards, and the risks that result from them, are as ubiquitous today as natural hazards of traditional concern. In fact many of these contemporary hazards, such as those associated with climate warming, cannot be unambiguously distinguished from those such as floods and other extreme climatic events central to traditional concerns. The distribution of these hazards defies the conventional analysis and categorisation of natural science throwing up a fundamental challenge to considerations of distributional justice. These concerns have recently entered centre stage in social theory with the concept of a 'Risk Society'. Central to this approach is the argument that authoritarian approaches to the management and distribution of environmental risk can only be avoided by 'democratising' technoscientific practice. This paper will argue that equitable outcomes can only be assured if such 'democratisation' enables a reconciliation between decontextualised technoscientific knowledge and local knowledge. The relevance of this for broader debates around the problematical contemporary role of science and technology is discussed focusing on issues of democracy, community, citizenship and education."

Can Global Capitalism become regulated according to environmental constraints? by Marc Ollivier and Claudie Prunieras

"Of course I am not able to answer, and I believe nobody is, but it is not a reason to give up. To ask questions is a standard behaviour of scientists and very often they can't answer, in some cases during a very long time.

Starting from this point of view, I shall focus my speech on two concerns.

First: Is the question which appears as the title of this communication a relevant one? Does global capitalism exist as a reality of our time, and if we answer YES, are we authorized (and in which way), to speak about regulation of this global capitalism?

Second concern: Are there some features and trends of global capitalism that constitute efficient levers for a possible ecological regulation of the system? Can we discern, among the complex movements of this system, some dynamic forces which could help to set this kind of regulation going?"

International Equity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, by Manfred Lenzen

"Personal consumption is inseparably connected with the emission of greenhouse gases and thus contributes to climate change, which for many people is an issue that must be addressed.

Two general approaches in response to climate change are usually expressed: firstly, to rely on governments for policy change, and secondly, to rely on new technologies and energy efficiency measures which may reduce the production of greenhouse gases. Many governments, although being liberal with their rhetoric, have yet done little to seriously address the issue. New technologies, although mostly viable, have so far not been introduced quickly or extensively enough to prevent climate change. A third response is to take personal responsibility for our own individual contribution. This perspective emerges from concerns about our personal entanglement in the global crisis, but it can lead to behavioural changes on a larger scale.

Thus, it will be asked, what is a level of personal consumption which in both global ethical, and ecological sustainable terms, does not contribute to climate change? This ethical sustainable level must be compared with the present average consumption of people in industrialised countries. As an example, a quantitative assessment is presented of (1) the greenhouse gases embodied in a range of Australian consumer items such as food, household appliances, electricity, transport or insurance, and (2) the consumption of these items by an average Australian citizen. Apart from showing the impact of individual consumption on global warming, this assessment enables the concerned consumer to calculate a personal greenhouse gas budget expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The disparities between personal consumption and the ethical sustainable level demonstrate the need for drastic lifestyle changes in industrialised countries. Ultimately, the crucial question is, whether people in these countries are willing to carry through all necessary changes, that sustainable development demands.

This paper analyses the implications of climate change for individuals in industrialised countries in the context of sustainability and international equity. First of all, a brief statement of the problem is given, and global inequalities are described. International equity is applied to per capita greenhouse gas emissions, which results in a sustainable and equitable emissions level. It is evaluated, whether technological improvements or policy instruments are likely to achieve this level in the following decades. In addition, the role of changes in consumer behaviour as an individual, voluntary response to climate change is considered, using an extended concept of responsibility. Finally, the implications of unsustainable and inequitable emissions are quantified in form of a personal greenhouse gas budget. Throughout the argumentation it is referred to the Australian situation as an example."

Elizabeth Desombres (2004) 'Global Warming: More Common than Tragic', Ethics and International Affairs vol.18 no.1

Stephen Gardiner (2004) 'The Global Warming Tragedy and the Dangerous Illusion of the Kyoto Protocol', Ethics and International Affairs vol.18 no.1

Dale Jamieson (2002) Morality's Progress (Oxford: Clarendon), chapter 18 Ethics, Public Policy, and Global Warming, and chapter 19, Global Environmental Justice.

Climate Skeptics

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, by Bjorn Lomborg

"Bjørn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources. Lomborg criticizes the way many environmental organizations make selective and misleading use of scientific evidence and argues that we are making decisions about the use of our limited resources based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Concluding that there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism, he stresses the need for clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems."

Readers' Reviews

Climate Change: A Natural Hazard, by William Kininmonth. Multi-Science Publishing Co. Ltd. (May 1, 2004)

"This text argues that climate change is a natural phenomenon and that the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has overlooked this straightforward cause for global warming because the climate models the IPCC has created are oversimplified. The models' faults are vigorously examined, including what has been left out and what has not been accorded proper weight. The book outlines the continuing need to better understand and predict natural climate variations to underpin better planning, including sound infrastructure development and mitigation strategies, so that the huge annual human and property losses worldwide from climate extremes can be avoided."

Readers' Reviews

Last Updated 11/18/04 ZGS