Obligations to Future Generations

David DeGrazia

in Creation Ethics

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780195389630
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949731 | DOI:
Obligations to Future Generations

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Predictable results of global climate change seem to suggest that we have an obligation to make sacrifices to stem the tide of climate change—primarily for the sake of future generations. Do we, in fact, have obligations to persons who will exist only in the future and, if so, how we can coherently explain the basis for these obligations? The chapter addresses the following questions. First, do future persons have interests, moral status, and rights? Second, are our obligations to future generations a matter of justice? Third, even if future persons have rights and our obligations to them are a matter of justice, should their interests nevertheless be discounted—as some economists suggest—in view of their temporal distance from us? Finally, in view of nonidentity—the fact that different policy choices will eventually entail the existence of different people—how can we explain the wrong of irresponsible policy choices and individual choices that leave a compromised world for future generations?

Keywords: future generations; obligations; rights of future persons; justice; nonidentity problem; climate change; moral status; rights

Chapter.  12352 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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