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Course Description

In addition to enormous improvements in quality of life, the Industrial Revolution has from the outset introduced risks of occasional harms to individuals who had little or no say in living under these risks and little means for obviating them. Society has devised various means at least to compensate those suffering such inadvertent harm – for example,Workmen'sCompensation and, on OliverWendell Holmes's view,some aspects of modern tort law. In the case of nuclear power the scale of the risks have become large enough to spark controversy over whether the risks are even morally permissible. Granting fully the uncertainties about the harms that human emissions of greenhouse gases may produce, those emissions are without question creating risks of harm to people in the future who have no say whatever about whether the risks are worth the potential gains. What is so unusual about climate change as a challenge in risk management is the worldwide scale of the potential harms and the 50 or more years of lag time before the full extent of the harms will emerge if they occur at all. This course will review the growing literature on climate change ethics, focusing on two questions: (1) Who ought to bear the responsibility for any harms that do occur in the future?; and (2) What obligations do we presently have either to obviate those risks or to provide means for compensating those who, beyond their capacity to prevent it, suffer harm? Not too far in the background throughout the course will be the more sweeping question whether it is morally permissible at all to impose a risk on others of such a scale.

Basic Enrollment Requirements: Unofficial Transcript – High School Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, or progress towards a Bachelor’s Degree – 3.0 GPA

Instructor Approval: Not required

Remission Eligible: Yes, first day of term; all university policies apply

Refund Policy: For-Credit 3+ Weeks

Affiliated With:

School of Arts & Sciences