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The Implications of Psychological Limitations for the Ethics of Climate Change


  • T. J. Kasperbauer


Most philosophers and psychologists who have explored the psychology of climate change have focused only on motivational issues - getting people to act on what morality requires of them. This is misleading, however, because there are other psychological processes directed not at motivation but rather our ability to grasp the implications of climate change in a general way - what Stephen Gardiner has called the 'grasping problem'. Taking the grasping problem as my departure point, I draw two conclusions from the relevant psychological literature: 1) ethicists and policy makers should focus less on changing individuals' behaviours and more on changing policy; and 2) although solutions to climate change must come at the level of policy, progress on this front will be limited by incompatible moral norms.

Suggested Citation

  • T. J. Kasperbauer, 2016. "The Implications of Psychological Limitations for the Ethics of Climate Change," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(3), pages 353-370, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev25:ev2515

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    More about this item


    Climate change; psychological limitations; psychological constraints; Stephen Gardiner; Jonathan Haidt;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water


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