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Intergenerational Justice: How Reasonable Man Discounts Climate Damage

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  • Marc D. Davidson

    () (Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Sciencepark 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Research group Philosophy and Public Affairs, University of Amsterdam, Oude Turfmarkt 141-147, 1012 GC Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Marc D. Davidson, 2012. "Intergenerational Justice: How Reasonable Man Discounts Climate Damage," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(1), pages 1-17, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:4:y:2012:i:1:p:106-122:d:15554
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mouez Fodha, 2015. "Nuclear waste storage and environmental intergenerational externalities," International Journal of Sustainable Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 18(1/2), pages 94-114.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    intergenerational justice; equity; climate change; social rate of time preference; reasonable man; risk; tort law; future generations;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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