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I am also unmoved by complaints that pointing out gross injustices is “idle.” I have argued that ethics can and should provide guidance for action (even given the theoretical storm). Moreover, although one purpose of ethics is to guide action, in my view it also plays a role in bearing witness to serious wrongs even when there is little chance of change. Ideal theory is central to this task; but an ethics of transition can also play a part. Though we may not yet know precisely what an ethical climate would look like, concerns about injustice (for example) provide guidelines that help hold us accountable. This is so even if mostly what they do is remind us that our current behavior falls far short of any morally defensible goal. Recall that, in a perfect moral storm the key worry is not that ethics may require us to be angels, but that we may (rightly) be remembered as something far worse.


  • 1. 149, this volume.
  • 2. 168, note 22, this volume.
  • 3. 167, note 18, this volume.
  • 4. 179, this volume: “we have to reduce . . . to near zero, by sometime around the end of this century.”
  • 5. 186, this volume, my emphasis.
  • 6. Stephen M. Gardiner, “A Core Precautionary Principle.” Journal of Political Philosophy 14, no. 1 (2006): 33-60; Stephen M. Gardiner, “Ethics and Global Climate Change.” Ethics 114, no. 3 (2004): 555-600.
  • 7. On substance, Stephen M. Gardiner, A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011; chapter 4.
  • 8. 168, note 30, this volume.
  • 9. Stephen M. Gardiner, “The Global Warming Tragedy and the Dangerous Illusion of the Kyoto Protocol,” Ethics and International Affairs 18, no. 1 (2004): 23-29, 28, 39; Stephen M. Gardiner, “The Real Tragedy of the Commons,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 30, no. 4 (2001): 387-416, 411-412.
  • 10. David Doniger, quoted in Gardiner, “The Global Warming Tragedy,” 591.
  • 11. 171, this volume: “[climate] might have been primarily a long-term problem when negotiations began in the early 1990s.”
  • 12. Stephen M. Gardiner, A Perfect Moral Storm, chapters 6 and 10.
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