Intergenerational Justice

Richard B. Howarth

in The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566600
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

 Intergenerational Justice

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This article reviews three distinct approaches (presentism, utilitarianism, and rights-based ethics) to address the important issues of intergenerational justice that arise in the evaluation of climate stabilization policies. Presentism is an ethical framework that emphasizes the interests of present generations while denying that future generations have full moral standing. Presentists note that people hold altruistic preferences concerning the welfare of their children and grandchildren and that those preferences provide the most appropriate basis for balancing short-run costs and long-run benefits in environmental policy analysis. Advocates of classical utilitarianism argue that equal weight should be attached to the welfare of each and every member of society including members of future generations. In the context of climate change policy, advocates of rights-based ethics argue that future generations are entitled to protection from harm or that the natural environment is the shared property of both present and future generations.

Keywords: intergenerational justice; presentism; utilitarianism; climate stabilization policies; rights-based ethics

Article.  7146 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Political Theory ; Public Policy

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