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The Role of Claims of Justice in Climate Change Policy

PHILOSOPHERS HAVE APPLIED theories of justice to determine what should be done about climate change. The three core types of theories they have applied to climate change are theories of distributive justice, theories of corrective justice, and theories based on equality.1 I will examine each of these types of theories in this chapter and show that, as they have been applied to climate change, they all suffer from two faults: they suffer from what I call climate change blinders and they fail basic tests of feasibility.2

There are many versions, complexities, and details of each of these classes of theories. At the risk of doing great injustice to theories of justice, I will focus on core elements of each of these three classes of theories, and particularly on those elements that have been used to make arguments about climate change.

Without discussing each and every version of every possible theory that might apply, I cannot claim that theories of justice have nothing to say about climate change policy. There could always be some theory or an alternative version of a theory that does have something to say. I can only examine what has been argued so far, and in a short monograph, can only cover the central arguments, not each nuance. The best I can say is that this invites a response explaining why a particular theory or element of a theory plausibly changes my conclusions.

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