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PPR Research Seminar

Date: 16 February 2011 Time: 4.00-6.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North SR10

Clare Heyward (Warwick)

Adaptation as Compensating for Climate Change?

One of the most pressing moral and political problems raised by global climate change is the distribution of mitigation and adaptation burdens. It has been suggested by some that wealthy, industrialised countries should fund adaptation for countries which will suffer the adverse effects of climate change, as a way of compensating for harms they have brought about by causing global climate change.

Various objections have been raised to this argument. Perhaps the most difficult to address are those concerning the problems of historic responsibility. At the time of industrialisation, it is argued, no-one could have been reasonably expected to know that burning fossil fuels would lead to climate change. Moreover, the emissions of the 18th and 19th centuries were not harmful at the time - it is only now that the absorptive capacity of the atmosphere is reaching its limits that temperature increases are being observed. Why then, should industrialised countries be liable for compensation?

I argue that both of these problems can be addressed. However, financing adaptation should nevertheless not be viewed as appropriate compensation for climate-change related harms. The reason for this is because climate change can be viewed in part as a form of cultural injustice. On this perspective, adaptation is not necessarily a solution to the injustices associated with climate change, but instead, in some respect, is constitutive of them. Therefore, it is not possible to compensate for climate change by financing adaptation. Unlike the above arguments, this view does not rely on a wholesale rejection of causal responsibility, but by considering the various ways in which climate change raises problems of global distributive justice. The advantage of this perspective is that it helps explain why postponing mitigation on the grounds that victims of climate change can be compensated later is not, contrary to what some believe, an appropriate solution for the present.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Politics, Philosophy and Religion PPR


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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