Climate change, intergenerational justice, and the non-identity effect

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Thomas D. Bontly


Do we owe it to future generations, as a requirement of justice, to take action to mitigate anthropogenic climate change? This paper examines the implications of Derek Parfit’s notorious non-identity problem for that question. An argument from Jörg Tremmel that the non-identity effect of climate policy is “insignificant” is examined and found wanting, and a contrastive, difference-making approach for comparing different choices’ non-identity effects is developed. Using the approach, it is argued that the non-identity effect of a given policy response to climate change depends on the contrasting policy. Compared to a baseline scenario without further mitigation, the non-identity effect of choosing to limit climate change to 1.5°C would be highly significant.

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Author Biography

Thomas D. Bontly, University of Connecticut

Thomas D. Bontly is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut. He has research interests in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, ethics, and environmental ethics. His current research focuses on the non-identity problem.