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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Postgraduate Course: Climate Change, Justice and Responsibility (PLIT11016)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores how the problem of climate change tests and expands fundamental ideas in political philosophy. What moral responsibility do we have for the harm done through climate change, as members of rich nations, voters in powerful democracies or shareholders in and customers of polluting corporations? What duties does this give us, collectively and individually? Are these duties enforceable, and by whom? Are we required to cut emissions by the claims of justice of vulnerable communities, future generation or even other species? Should extreme measures such as geoengineering, or controversial policies to regulate population growth, be considered?
Course description This course explores the moral challenges forced on us by climate change and human population growth. What responsibility do we have for the harm done through climate change, as consumers, as voters in powerful democracies, as shareholders in and customers of polluting corporations, or even as procreators? What duties of climate justice do we have, collectively or individually? How should the burdens of tackling climate change be distributed? Are we required to cut emissions ┐ or even to have fewer children ┐ in order to do justice to vulnerable communities, future generation, or even other species? Should extreme measures such as geoengineering or population controls be considered?

Outline content

Pushing the boundaries of justice & morality:

- Introduction: Climate change as a challenge for moral and political philosophy.
- Climate change, human interests, & human rights.
- Climate change, collective harm, & collective responsibility.
- Population growth & procreative rights.
- Justice, future generations, and the non-identity problem.
- Climate change & justice to non-humans.

Collective challenges:

- Mitigation, adaptation, compensation, and who pays for them.
- Geoengineering: the moral questions.
- Population policy and global justice.

Individual challenges:

- What should I do? Collective problems and individual moral duties.

Learning experience

Students will participate in weekly hour-two seminars. They will have the opportunity to view an online mini-lecture on each topic in advance of the sessions, and will be given some specific questions to consider in the light of their reading each week. Required and optional political philosophy reading is indicated for each session, but students are also encouraged to engage in more general reading, to draw on environmental news or scientific reports, and to listen to relevant podcasts.

The classes themselves will involve a mixture of student presentations, debates, and group discussion, facilitated and chaired by the organizer. Students will also be encouraged to engage with one another and with the lecturer through online discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) One mid-term essay of no more than 2000 words (40%)
One final essay of no more than 2500 words (50%)
Seminar mark* (10%)
Feedback Written feedback will be provided on essays, verbal feedback on presentations and debates, and commentary on discussion in class. The organizer will provide advice in class on structuring, planning, and writing a good political theory essay, and will be available during her feedback and guidance hours for further discussion.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand a number of fundamental concepts in political and moral philosophy.
  2. Apply these concepts to the issues of global climate change, population growth, and our treatment of non-human animals.
  3. Present coherent, balanced philosophical arguments, in written or debate form
  4. Engage critically with the work of major political theorists and evaluate their arguments in the light of the practical dilemmas posed by climate change.
  5. Engage with their subject as it is being developed by discussing some of the newest and most controversial topics in political theory.
Reading List
Broome, J. (2012). Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World. New York & London. Norton.

Cripps, E. Climate Change and the Moral Agent: Individual duties in an interdependent world. (2013) Oxford. Oxford University Press. Chapter 1: ┐Introduction.┐

Gardiner, S. M. (2004). "Ethics and Global Climate Change." Ethics 114(3): 555-600. Reprinted in Climate Ethics: Essential Readings.

Garvey, J. (2008). The Ethics of Climate Change: Right and Wrong in a Warming World. London, Continuum.

Singer, P. (2002). One World: The Ethics of Globalization. New Haven & London, Yale University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Elizabeth Cripps
Tel: (0131 6)51 1948
Course secretaryMrs Gillian MacDonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 3244
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