Category Archives: Environment

Prof Henry Shue – Climate Mitigation and Subsistence Protection

PTRG 13 Oct 2017

Photo: Yuki Iwaki

We are delighted to have invited Professor Henry Shue from Oxford University as the presenter for PTRG yesterday.  In the presented paper, Professor Shue critically reflects upon his earlier argument: that it is important to make a distinction between ‘subsistence emissions’ and ‘luxury emissions’, and that this distinction should be incorporated into climate policy intended to achieve mitigation.  ‘Subsistence emissions’ are emissions necessary for securing the basic right to subsistence, whereas ‘luxury emissions’ are those that exceed a minimally adequate level of emission.  According to Professor Shue, it is morally unacceptable to ask the poor to sacrifice subsistence emissions so that the affluent can maintain their luxury emissions.  Continue reading

If having children is bad for the environment, what should parents do about it?

Here’s a thought many of us find uncomfortable. When we tally up the ways our individual behaviour increases carbon emissions – flying, driving, eating animal products – there’s one thing we should put at the top of the list: having babies. Each time you do that, you effectively create another lifetime’s worth of pollution. On one estimate, the average US woman increases GHG emissions by 5.7 times her own lifetime average by having a child. Continue reading

Tim Hayward – Constituting Finance as a Global Public Good

PTRG 10 May 2017

Photo: Glenda Alvarez

Summary of the paper

The economic premises of the Western liberal democracies are unsustainable in the light of social justice and ecology.  This indicates the ‘necessity’ of conceiving of an alternative to the existing global economic institutions.  The global financial system, too, needs to be reorganised and reoriented.  But how?  Answering this question may indicate the ‘possibility’ of conceiving of alternative constitutional arrangements concerning global finance.  Continue reading

Elizabeth Cripps – Justice, Integrity and the Green Parenting Duty

Political Theory Research Group series 2016/17: 12 October

Source: Vinoth Chandar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Source: Vinoth Chandar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This week we had the pleasure of discussing Dr Elizabeth Cripps’ paper, which introduced the idea of a “green parenting duty” as a requirement of climate justice and of respecting one’s child as a future moral agent. The work is to be presented later this month at the Aristotelian Society.

Continue reading

Population and Justice: Facing up to hard choices

Those of us who care about global justice and climate justice need to take human population growth seriously. Or so I argued in the first instalment of this two-part blog. On current population forecasts, our grandchildren or great-grandchildren might have to decide between basic rights for their own generation and protecting future generations from climate change. We owe it to them not to bequeath this tragic choice. However, it is also morally crucial to address population in the context of concerted efforts to tackle both global injustice and climate change, not as a standalone problem.

Continue reading

How not to talk about population

Do we need to talk about population and justice? Climate change, as terrifying a threat to future generations as you could find, is partly the result of growing human numbers, along with consumption and the lack of sufficient technology to turn one planet into the 1.6 we’re pretending we have. That’s just the IPAT equation: Environmental Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology. Moreover, those human numbers – 7.3bn in 2015 – are predicted to go a long way up before stabilising: to 9.7bn by 2050, and 11.2bn by 2100.

Climate justice campaigners, Copenhagen 2009. Photo: lightsinmotion, Creative Commons

Continue reading

Tim Hayward – A Global Right of Water

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 27 Jan 2016

Photo: United Nations

Photo: United Nations

This week’s PTRG saw Professor Tim Hayward present his paper ‘A Global Right of Water’.  In the paper, Tim answered several important questions such as: whether a right regarding safe and clean water is a ‘basic right’ without which no other right can be enjoyed; who has what responsibility to fulfil the material demands that this right entails; whether the traditional paradigm of thinking is appropriate to address real ecological challenges of a changing world; what political institution would be needed to realise everyone’s secure access to safe and clean water. Continue reading

Yukinori Iwaki – Temporal Debt, Ecological Debt, and the ‘Absolute’ Harm to the Disadvantaged

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 13 Jan 2016

Photo: International Labour Organization

Photo: International Labour Organization

This week’s PTRG saw Yukinori Iwaki present his paper ‘Temporal Debt, Ecological Debt, and the “Absolute” Harm to the Disadvantaged’. In the paper, Yuki introduces two novel concepts to explain how the world’s advantaged population are complicit in absolute harm towards the disadvantaged: the accumulation of ‘temporal debt’ and ‘ecological debt’. He identifies five components of human well-being whose denial constitutes harm: continued life, bodily health, bodily integrity, practical reason, and human affiliation. Subsequently, he argues that time and space are the overarching dimensions within which a human lives her life, and therefore infringements on these two dimensions lead to harm. Crucially, the paper attempts to locate the origin of this harm. Instead of simply noting the existence of the harm, Yuki asserts that the harm to the disadvantaged stems from injustices and debts caused by the advantaged. Thus, he enters well-known debates in global justice, mostly associated with Thomas Pogge, on the relation and responsibility of global injustices but with a more comprehensive account of how and why these injustices (or harms) occur. Continue reading

Five Bad Arguments Against Divestment

Photo: Augustine Ruiz.

Last year, Glasgow University became the first university in Europe to commit to fossil fuel divestment. Since then SOAS and Bedford have followed suit. Who, one wondered, would be next? The obvious answer was Edinburgh. Edinburgh has long prided itself on its ethical credentials. It was the first university in Europe to sign up to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment. In 2014, it set up the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability, which swiftly launched a consultation on investment policy. The Just World Institute contributed by issuing a response document and collaborating in a packed out public debate. Finally, in the autumn, the matter moved to another level: the university set up a committee to formally consider the future of its £290 million endowment.   Divestment seemed like a real possibility. Continue reading

Human rights and ethics in a crowded planet

Any renewal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has to acknowledge the fact that we live in a crowded planet – crowded in the sense that the demands placed by the world’s human population on its ecological space are such that some members do not have adequate for their health and well-being.

The growth of human numbers is clearly a major concern, but in framing that concern we need to think carefully how the naturalistic element of the problem – the size of a population in relation to its ecological support system – is affected by the social relations that distribute rights of access to it.  The connection between the ecological and the social is not always reflected on clearly, if at all, in discussions of human rights and ethics. Continue reading