Disagreement and Responses to Climate Change
The potential harms associated with global climate change demand an urgent response. But at the same time, the nature and extent of both the problem and our proper response to it are continually contested, within the academic community and wider society. What should be the ethical import of this disagreement? In this paper I set out John Rawls' theory of reasonable disagreement as a way of analysing such contestation. On Rawls' account, reasonable disagreement is founded in diversity rather than straightforward error. I argue that many aspects of the scientific and ethical debate on climate change can be usefully viewed from within such a perspective. This raises, I suggest, serious problems for deciding what the human response to global warming must be. Lastly, I survey two responses which might be thought to cope with such pervasive disagreement. Neither, however, is clearly effective. In my conclusion I suggest that reasonable disagreement might be tackled best in a model of deliberative democracy. Such a model, however, does not generate easy answers to the problems of climate change.
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