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Disagreement and Responses to Climate Change

  • Graham Long
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    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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    Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

    Volume (Year): 20 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 503-525

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    Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev20:ev2024
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.whpress.co.uk

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    1. Finn Arler, 2001. "Global Partnership, Climate Change and Complex Equality," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 10(3), pages 301-329, August.
    2. Richard S.J. Tol, 2006. "Why Worry About Climate Change? A Research Agenda," Working Papers 2006.136, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521727327 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521898690 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Andrew Dobson, 2006. "Thick Cosmopolitanism," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 54, pages 165-184, 03.
    6. Oluf Langhelle, 2000. "Sustainable Development and Social Justice: Expanding the Rawlsian Framework of Global Justice," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 9(3), pages 295-323, August.
    7. Derek Bell, 2002. "How can Political Liberals be Environmentalists?," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 50(4), pages 703-724, 09.
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