Skip to main content

Climate Change and Sustainability: Ethical Dimensions (270-0-20)


Lendell Chad Horne

Meeting Info

Annenberg Hall G15: Tues, Thurs 3:30PM - 4:50PM

Overview of class

This course is an introduction to some central concepts and problems in philosophical environmental ethics, with an emphasis on issues related to anthropogenic climate change. In the first part of the course, we will explore the problem of "moral standing:" the problem of who or what is deserving of ultimate moral consideration. For example, do sentient non-human animals like pigs or polar bears have moral standing? What about non-sentient life, such as plants or fungus? Might whole ecosystems or even nature as such have moral standards? We will examine recent arguments on these questions and their implications for moral theory. In the second part of the course, we will turn directly to the issue of global climate change. We will explore the standard economic analysis of climate change as a collective action problem and the philosophical presuppositions of that analysis. We will consider the question of the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of climate mitigation globally, and we will discuss the ethics of geoengineering. We will close by considering the issue of "anthropocentrism" in ethics, asking whether and why anthropocentrism might be a problem for moral theory.

Learning Objectives

(1) Recognize moral issues and distinguish them from descriptive ones. (2) Understand major contemporary moral theories and the values they presuppose. (3) Analyze philosophical arguments related to moral standing, and consider their implications for moral theorizing. (4) Explore the complexity of the problem of global climate change, and consider alternative approaches to mitigating those problems and the reasons supporting them. (5) Understand the differential impacts of anthropogenic climate change globally, and explore the intersection between climate justice and historical injustices. (6) Reflect upon your own answers to important moral-philosophical questions and the reasons supporting them. (7) Engage in respectful, rigorous, and constructive dialogue concerning environmental issues and communicate thoughtfully and clearly about them.

Evaluation Method

Final Exam - Take Home

Class Materials (Required)

All class materials will be available on Canvas at NO cost to the student.

Class Notes

Final exam - take home

Class Attributes

Ethics & Values Distro Area