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Environmental Values

Wrongful Harm to Future Generations: The Case of Climate Change

Marc D. Davidson

Environmental Values 17(2008): 471-488. doi: 10.3197/096327108X368494


In this article I argue that governments are justified in addressing the potential for human induced climate damages on the basis of future generations' rights to bodily integrity and personal property. First, although future generations' entitlements to property originate in our present entitlements, the principle of self-ownership requires us to take 'reasonable care' of the products of future labour. Second, while Parfit's non-identity problem has as yet no satisfactory solution, the present absence of an equilibrium between theory and intuitions justifies a precautionary approach, i.e. treating climate damage as a wrongful harm. In addition, a supplementary consideration is described as arising from transcendental needs.


Climate change, future generations, wrongful harm, non-identity problem

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Can We Harm Future People? Alan Carter

A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption. Stephen M. Gardiner

Distributive Justice in International Environmental Policy: Axiomatic Foundation and Exemplary Formulation Carsten Helm and Udo. E. Simonis

The Future - For Better or Worse Ernest Partridge

Ethics and Climate Change: A Commentary on MacCracken, Toman and Gardiner.Peter Singer

Values in the Economics of Climate Change. Michael Toman

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Morality and Climate Change: Is Leaving your TV on Standby a Risky Behaviour? Catherine Butler

Stability and Change in British Public Discourses about Climate Change between 1997 and 2010. Stuart Capstick, Nicholas Pidgeon and Karen Henwood

The Implications of Psychological Limitations for the Ethics of Climate Change. T.J. Kasperbauer

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