Intergenerational Justice: How Reasonable Man Discounts Climate Damage
Moral philosophers and economists have evaluated the intergenerational problem of climate change by applying the whole gamut of theories on distributive justice. In this article, however, it is argued that intergenerational justice cannot imply the application of moral ideal theories to future generations. The formal principle of equality simply requires us to treat like cases as like. If intergenerational justice is to have any meaning, it would require future generations to receive the same treatment under the law and the same treatment from the authorities, as far as cases are like. In the context of climate change, the reasonable man standard from tort law is of particular relevance. There is no justification to handle pollution across generational boundaries according to norms which differ from the (international) laws for handling pollution across national borders. It is argued that this implies, for example, that a zero social rate of time preference should be used in cost-benefit analysis of climate policy: climate damage experienced by future generations should be discounted neither for their higher expected wealth, nor purely for their being remote.
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