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Climate Justice

The climate justice research stream focuses on the moral and political dimensions of responding to climate change. The moral dimension of our response is important if we are to avoid creating further injustices. Ethics and in particular considerations of justice play a crucial role in determining what the responses to climate change should be and how we should evaluate them.

Research within this stream covers several key areas, including:

  • Mining and morality;
  • The carbon budget;
  • Renewable energy; and
  • Justice and climate transitions.

Part of this work requires relating pragmatic questions concerning governance and policy development to theoretical questions concerning the appropriate political, ethical, and psychological frameworks through which a maximally just response to climate change can be achieved. Relevant cross-cutting themes include:

  • Global justice and inequality;
  • Identification of the most vulnerable;
  • Theories of harm;
  • Democracy and global governance;
  • Moral responsibility and implicit bias; and
  • Decision theory and risk perception.

This research has been supported by internal and external grants including:

J.Moss, ARC Discovery, Egalitarian Responses to Climate Change, (First CI) (with Simon Keller, Iwao Hirose, Garrett Cullity).

Recent events include:

Justice and Climate Transitions’ event at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Paris, as an official part of the COP21. Participants included: Simon Caney, Jeremy Moss, Darrel Moellendorf and John O’Neill.

Resources, Morality and Mining’ event at the University of New South Wales.

Recent Grants

Australian Research Council, Discovery Project

  • Professor Jeremy Moss and  Professor Garrett Cullity; Professor Christian Barry; Professor John Broome for a project entitled Ethics, responsibility and the carbon budget ($356,926).

Ethics, responsibility and the carbon budget. This project aims to provide a rigorous ethical framework for dividing the world’s remaining ‘carbon budget’ (CB). In order to avoid climate change the world must drastically limit its emissions of greenhouse gases. The project will develop a new analysis of how our assumptions concerning risk and harm shape conception of the CB. It will also provide a new understanding of how future emission rights should be allocated given that countries have emitted vastly different quantities of greenhouse gases in the past. The project will analyse how the CB will impact the climate transition plans of countries such as Australia. The project will thus bring significant new research in philosophy to bear on a practical issue.

Research Areas

This area of research has two related dimensions. The first concerns the distributive issues associated with limiting global CO2-e so as to achieve a high probability of avoiding a temperature increase of 2°C or more (our ‘carbon budget’). The second strand of the research considers several dimensions of the harm caused by unrestricted fossil fuel exports.

Mining activity accounts for a large percentage of Australia’s economic activity. The export of coal and gas are particularly significant. Yet, in order to avoid dangerous climate change we need to limit the amount of CO2-e that is released into the atmosphere to keep temperature rises to less than 2C. This research focuses on the ethical issues that arise for fossil fuel exporters and the states in which they operate.

Climate justice is especially important with regard to the policies we adopt to transition to a low carbon society. All transitions will inevitably create winners and losers and part of achieving a just transition is ensuring that benefits are distributed in the right way between groups within and between societies.

This research also includes a focus on general issues in egalitarian political philosophy including capabilities and equality: legitimate and justified?

The responsibility stream focuses on the preconditions for responsibility. Responsibility, broadly understood, is the capacity to exercise willpower, self-control, rationality, moral agency, and resilience. These capabilities enable us to pursue our goals, contribute to our communities, and be effective global citizens. We therefore have an interest in pursuing and promoting them. 

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