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Climate Change and the Concept of Shared Responsibility

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  • Franziska Martinsen, Department of Political Science, Leibnitz University Hannover, Germany
  • Johanna Seibt
The recent debate about justice and responsibility increasingly tries to accommodate a new type of agentive situation where local short-term actions have global long-term consequences, due to the action’s embedding in complex interaction networks. Currently the debate is shifting focus from the spatial to the temporal dimension of such wide-scope results of individual actions. This shift from ‘global ethics’ to ‘intergenerational ethics’ and, in particular, ‘climate ethics’ requires some new analytical concepts, however. In this paper we provide a definition of wide-scope responsibility geared to articulate our moral concerns about emergent effects in complex systems, such as climate change. Working from Iris Marion Young’s “social connection model of responsibility”, we present a notion of shared ecological responsibility with global and intergenerational scope. We show that our account is not affected by the so-called non-identity objection to intergenerational ethics. Since we work from an action-theoretic rather than normative perspective, our account is ‘ethically parametrized’ in the sense that it can be combined with different conceptions of structural and intergenerational justice. In conclusion we illustrate this point and show how the account may be used to support a concrete climate policy proposal: the “Greenhouse Development Rights Framework.”
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Ethics
Pages (from-to)163-189
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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