Anthropogenic climate change: Scientific uncertainties and moral dilemmas


Hillerbrand, Rafaela, and Michael Ghil. 2008. “Anthropogenic climate change: Scientific uncertainties and moral dilemmas.” Physica D 237 (14-17): 2132–2138.


This paper considers the role of scientific expertise and moral reasoning in the decision making process involved in climate-change issues. It points to an unresolved moral dilemma that lies at the heart of this decision making, namely how to balance duties towards future generations against duties towards our contemporaries. At present, the prevailing moral and political discourses shy away from addressing this dilemma and evade responsibility by falsely drawing normative conclusions from the predictions of climate models alone. We argue that such moral dilemmas are best addressed in the framework of Expected Utility Theory. A crucial issue is to adequately incorporate into this framework the uncertainties associated with the predicted consequences of climate change on the well-being of future generations. The uncertainties that need to be considered include those usually associated with climate modeling and prediction, but also moral and general epistemic ones. This paper suggests a way to correctly incorporate all the relevant uncertainties into the decision making process.


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