There was a talk in Corpus Christi today that was a kind of grad student slam dunk. Organized by Cinnamon Carlane and given by Henry Shue, the talk was on the ethics of climate change. Firstly, it involved free sandwiches (fully 2/3 of which were vegetarian). Secondly, as with most of Professor Shue’s talks, it involved the distribution of a comprehensive bibliography. With a thesis upcoming, you can never have too many articles of assuredly high quality to include in your discussion and, perhaps more importantly, your bibliography. Thirdly, the room was packed with people interested in environmental politics: an elusive variety of student who seem to be spread across every program and department, and only come together under unusual circumstances.
Shue’s moral argument is, of course, very well thought out and compelling. The biggest flaw, I think, is that he is not focused enough on the policy course that would be required to deal with climate change effectively, and the secondary moral phenomena that arise from that. That said, being able to make a strong foundational case that climate change is a problem upon which we are morally obligated to act may be an important step in the generation of the requisite level of political will.
Those interested in this stuff will probably appreciate knowing that Professor Sir Nicholas Stern is talking about his report on the economics of climate change in the exam schools, this Wednesday at 5:00pm.