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Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change may contribute to a mass extinction that would leave biodiversity depleted for millions of years—quite possibly longer than the duration of the human species. Such effects are arguably of ethical concern, but because established ethical theories are anthropocentric—that is, focused on the relatively short-term interests of human beings—they offer no guidance on such vast temporal scales. There has been significant work in recent decades in both longer-term intergenerational anthropocentric climate ethics and near-term nonanthropocentric ethics, but so far these novel developments have not been integrated into a long-term nonanthropocentric climate ethic. This article considers prospects for the development and justification of such an ethic, difficulties it would face, and its relevance to climate policy. WIREs Clim Change 2011 2 701–711 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.131

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