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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: June 2014

1 - Danger, Poverty, and Human Dignity


“[I]f a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.”

– John Donne

It is widely appreciated that climate change is a moral problem, but perhaps not so well understood is that even identifying climate change as dangerous necessarily involves a moral judgment. This is surprising because it means that moral judgments enter into climate change policy discussions very early on, already at the point of identifying when, or what kind of, climate change is dangerous.

The stated central objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” If we suppose that this is the principal objective of international climate change negotiations and policy formation, we are left with some obvious questions: What is dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system? How is it to be identified so that policy can be crafted to avoid it?

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