Mediated Responsibilities, Global Warming, and the Scope of Ethics



In our times, the entire context of ethics has fundamentally changed. So argued Hans Jonas in The Imperative of Responsibility, a 1984 translation of two German works of his from 1979 and 1981.1 When the classical texts of ethics from Plato to Kant were written, the impacts of human action were seen as affecting almost exclusively the human contemporaries of the agent, and any long-term outcomes could be disregarded as serendipitous and unpredictable side effects, inessential for purposes of constructing adequate theories of virtue or duty. But now, because of technology, the impacts of a great deal of human action have to be recognized as affecting large swathes of the biosphere and future generations for many centuries to come. Preserving the conditions for the continuation of human life on our planet has become an ethical issue, as have responsibilities with regard to the rest of the biosphere, regarded by Jonas as needing to be recognized as a sphere of human stewardship, to which anthropocentric approaches both in ethics and in metaphysics are inappropriate. In general, human responsibilities need to be reconceptualized to match this radically new context, so that the scope of ethics corresponds to the range of impacts of human actions and omissions.

While some might quarrel with details of this critique, and others might question aspects of the revisionist Marxism presented as Jonas's own new account of ethics, the broad lines of this account of the context of ethics as it stands are surely beyond dispute. For the development of technology in the period of the lives of many of us has significantly changed the range of foreseeable impacts of human actions and policies, in ways that already affect nonhuman species and their habitats, and that are almost certain to affect coming generations both of the near and of the more distant future, both human and nonhuman. In many cases these have been welcome developments, allowing of increased life expectancy, greater leisure, enhanced appreciation of art and of the natural world, and effective treatments for many afflictions that used to have to be accepted as parts of the natural order. But they also unquestionably raise ethical challenges, unlikely to be addressed by mere repetition of long-standing theories whether of virtuous dispositions and comportment, or of timeless moral rules, or of a dutiful respect toward contemporary humanity. Indeed if we fail to reconceive the scope and content of ethics so as to take the increased range of foreseeable impacts into account, we are likely to find ourselves advocating by default an irresponsible disregard for impacts upon most of the biosphere and most of the future. The scope and content of ethics, then, must be reconceived so as to correspond to the full range of the foreseeable impacts of human activities, and also of the foreseeable impacts of policies of nonintervention and inaction.

The task of overhauling ethical theory along these lines of course lies far beyond the possible aims and thus beyond the scope of the current paper.2 What I want to consider is a small but significant fragment of these larger issues, and one which has a strong bearing on the ethics of global warming. This is the issue of mediated responsibilities and their bearing on global warming, or rather some aspects of such responsibilities that have not often been brought together and juxtaposed to the revised context of ethics as depicted by Jonas. If many of our responsibilities are mediated ones, ones where there is one or another kind of distance or gap between action and foreseeable impacts, and if this currently involves such impacts being disregarded or discounted, then we need to address ways in which the framework of action needs to be modified to cope with these responsibilities. For agents are often inclined to disregard (or at least discount to some degree) mediated impacts of their action or inaction, whether good or bad. But even if this was once understandable, the changed context of ethics makes it irresponsible for such disregard to continue.

I am concerned here with responsibilities in both of two senses, causal responsibility and moral responsibility, and shall be suggesting that both of these apply to mediated responsibility in all its varieties. Where responsibility is not abrogated by the inability to act (or not to act) or mitigated by one or more of the relevant kinds of ignorance, my view is that, subject to certain qualifications such as the distinction between empowering others to do things and making them do things, agents are just as responsible when their responsibility is mediated as when it is unmediated. But rather than argue this for all the varieties of mediated responsibility, I will instead focus on aspects relevant to global warming such as the impacts of current action on the distant future, and the cumulative impacts of apparently isolated actions, and on some of their implications for responsibility and also for political decision making. This undertaking first involves a review of various kinds of mediated responsibility, and then an application of relevant kinds to the contemporary world, and to its modes of decision making.

Mediated Responsibilities

Mediated responsibilities include cases where one agent, A, brings it about that another agent B (or other agents) act(s) or abstain(s) from action with foreseeable consequences for which (on some views) A may be held responsible, at least in part. Such cases are sometimes relevant to issues of global warming, as we shall later see, as when a set of consumers provides incentives to producers elsewhere to engage in pollutant activities. But there are many other kinds of case where mediated responsibilities are also in question. For the impacts of action or inaction can be situated far away from the agent in space and/or in time, and this of itself can appear to agents to reduce their responsibility, however certain and predictable and otherwise unmediated the relation may be between action and impact.3 But this appearance is illusory. Time bombs are clearly the responsibility of those who make them and those who install them, even if their victims are unknown, and even if they do not detonate for a hundred years. So are land mines and the cluster bombs that land without exploding, thus becoming land mines for all practical purposes.

A full treatment of mediated responsibility would also consider cases where the impacts of action are less than certain, but retain some tangible probability. Here it may be claimed that what diminishes responsibility is the uncertainly that individual actions will have impacts at all. However, when types of actions, such as dropping cluster bombs, carry a significant average probability of eventual impacts, the plea that individual tokens of that type may well do no harm is manifestly unacceptable. There are also cases where the risk of impacts is low, but the magnitude of the impacts would be very great, and once again talk of mediated responsibility for those impacts could be in place. (What is right in such cases might often depend on what the other options are, and this means that in some cases the responsibility for such risks could be a diminished responsibility.) But the ethics of risk is too complex a topic to tackle here. For yet further kinds of mediated responsibility are going to prove more obviously relevant to the ethics of global warming.

Besides mediation by spatial or temporal distance, by the agency of others, or by uncertainty, the mediated aspect of responsibility can relate to diffusion. Thus, impacts can themselves be widely diffused across billions of people and other creatures, as when a canister-full of CFCs (chloro-fluorocarbons) released as propellants in one place spreads out and minutely reduces the ozone layer over a whole continent, and thus the immunity of contemporary creatures living beneath this layer to skin cancer. A thousand or so such canisters can together make a large cumulative difference, but each user of such a canister may try telling themselves that the difference they individually make is imperceptibly small, perhaps just because it will be a diffused one, and thus of no significance. The likely diffusion of impacts of itself makes this a case where responsibility is mediated. Causing diffused impacts may truly be insignificant, as in cases where we speak of “a mere drop in the ocean,” which could be accurate if what is dropped is a single pinch of salt. But with CFCs, the atmosphere and its ozone layer, things are notoriously different.

The same example illustrates the counterpart of diffused impacts, namely diffused or rather widely distributed causes. For as the CFC case shows, significant problems can be caused by large numbers of apparently insignificant actions having a joint, cumulative impact. But there is a difference between actions that do not belong to a set (whether simultaneous or distributed across time) likely to have foreseeable significant joint impacts, and those that do; for the fact that an action is a member of such a set is often discoverable and sometimes obvious, however slight its foreseeable individual impact. In this kind of case, mediated responsibility figures once again.

Derek Parfit on Imperceptible but Cumulative Impacts

Derek Parfit has supplied an intriguing sequence of thought-experiments about all this. Thus, according to Parfit one of the “mistakes of moral mathematics” consists in ignoring the effects of sets of acts, and assuming that if some act is right or wrong because of its effects, the only relevant effects are the effects of this particular act.4 Some of his examples are not directly relevant here, and concern the overdetermination of someone's death when several killers strike and one or more of them thus do the victim no distinctive harm, although their deed would otherwise have proved fatal. What is significant for present purposes, however, is the lesson that Parfit rightly endorses, namely: “Even if an act harms no one, this act may be wrong because it is one of a set of acts that together harm other people. Similarly, even if some act benefits no one, it can be what someone ought to do, because it is one of a set of acts that together benefit other people.” (This latter claim could, I suggest, be true of participation in beneficial international agreements, because of the precedents set by simply reaching such agreements, and the momentum generated for further ones. But that is not what Parfit had in mind.) Reasons why sets of acts may jointly harm or benefit include the acts being ones that singly have imperceptible effects, but jointly make a significant difference.5 And this brings us back to effects whose causes are a scattering of apparently innocuous and insignificant acts, and thus to mediated responsibility.

The issue now becomes which are the relevant sets of acts that jointly harm or benefit, and how we can know that our act would be a member of such a set, and right or wrong as such. Here, Parfit cogently claims that “When some group together harm or benefit other people, this group is the smallest group of whom it is true that, if they had all acted differently, the other people would not have been harmed, or benefited.”6 This claim, if true, exonerates of responsibility agents who might be added arbitrarily to the relevant group, but whose acts make no difference to the joint or cumulative effect: unrelated bystanders and their conversations, for example. (Similarly, we might add here among acts to be excluded acts which contribute to global warming but are themselves unavoidable, like human breathing, and like the rearing of cattle, economically indispensable for many poor Third-World farmers, even though the cattle contribute to global warming through emissions of methane.)

However, Parfit introduces and endorses a more elaborate claim both about ethical wrongness and about when agents know enough to be subject to such a claim. It goes like this: “When (1) the outcome would be worse if people suffer more, and (2) each of the members of some group could act in a certain way (he should perhaps have said: ‘in a certain avoidable way’), and (3) they could cause other people to suffer if enough of them act in this way, and (4) they would cause these people to suffer most if they all act in this way, and (5) each of them both knows these facts and believes that enough of them will act in this way, then (6) each would be acting wrongly if he acts in this way.”7 This claim fits Parfit's thought-experiment of The Harmless Torturers (p. 80), who each make someone's pain worse by an imperceptible amount. But importantly for current purposes, it also seems to fit avoidable contributions to global warming, at least where there is no strong ethical justification for them.

Parfit closes his chapter with a passage about the relation of social history to ethics, in which he shows some awareness of the kind of themes advanced by Jonas, and also adds to them. Here is an extract, from the penultimate paragraph:

Until this century, most of mankind lived in small communities. What each did could affect only a few others. But conditions have now changed. Each of us can now, in countless ways, affect countless other people. We can have real though small effects on thousands or millions of people. When these effects are widely dispersed, they may be either trivial, or imperceptible. It now makes a great difference whether we continue to believe that we cannot have greatly harmed or benefited others unless there are people with grounds for a serious complaint, or for gratitude. . . . For the sake of small benefits to ourselves, or our families, we may deny others much greater total benefits, or impose on others much greater total harms. We may think this permissible because the effects on each of the others will be either trivial or imperceptible. If this is what we think, what we do will often be much worse for all of us.8

This passage is concerned with humanity alone, and apparently with the current generation alone, and in these ways fails to take into account many impacts of current action and inaction, except insofar as current human interests require the functioning of the same ecosystems and weather systems as are vital to other species and will be vital to future generations. (Later in Reasons and Persons, Parfit has much to say about future generations, and how their identity is currently indeterminate, but partially determined by current generations; hence it would be unfair to represent him as neglectful of their good.) However, by stressing the frequently cumulative character of trivial and of imperceptible effects, Parfit importantly contributes to our grasp of mediated responsibility, and of how ethics has ceased to concern mainly the interpersonal relations of contemporary human individuals living in face-to-face communities. Besides, as Jonas remarks, “the cumulative self-propagation of the technological change of the world constantly overtakes the conditions of its contributing acts and moves through none but unprecedented situations, for which the lessons of experience are powerless.”9 Fortunately, there is nothing to prevent us extending Parfit's message to impacts affecting prospective generations or to impacts affecting nonhuman species irrespective of impacts on human interests, and thus getting to grips with some of the unprecedented situations envisaged by Jonas. To both of these extensions, the impacts of global warming are crucially relevant.

The Case of Global Warming

I should briefly clarify some of the ways in which trivial or imperceptible impacts contributing to global warming could jointly do serious harm. Not being a climate scientist, I am taking for granted the overall findings of successive IPCC reports on global warming and of the scientific consensus that they embody. These suggest that the cumulative impacts of small contributions to global warming are contributing to the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps, and that this is likely to generate a rise in sea levels sufficient to endanger low-lying cities worldwide, and also low-lying islands (some of which may virtually disappear within a century). Another serious possibility is the danger that the Gulf Stream, which currently bestows a pleasant climate on countries such as Ireland, Britain, and Norway, will cease to flow, leaving Britain with a climate more like that of Newfoundland; such a development is far from certain, but is a focus of serious current concern and could be irreversible, thus comprising a further example of a crucial threshold being crossed.

Again, global warming seems already to be causing the geographical range of tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue-fever to increase, as Donald Brown relates.10 Further thresholds could be crossed, as we can learn from Brown's book American Heat, if the gradual polewards migration of wild species ascribable to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the consequent global warming11 leaves stranded land species (e.g., species of mammals and reptiles) unable to migrate any further north or south, and thus to their extinction. Humanity is already extinguishing numerous species, many of which have never even been identified, through overt activities such as forest clearance, but this sorry process is liable to be intensified through the more covert process of anthropogenic climate change. Since species extinctions are in the nature of the case irreversible, further thresholds are liable to be crossed in this way, albeit silently. Yet a further kind of serious harm arising from anthropogenic global warming is the displacement of human environmental refugees, currently estimated at 25 million, and predicted to grow in numbers exponentially as decade succeeds to decade.12 In a world of more and more jealously guarded frontiers and overstretched resources, the creation of such large and growing numbers of refugees is likely to cause great and widespread anguish and suffering.

Correspondingly, great good could be achieved through an accumulation of environment-friendly practices, not least but not only on the part of individual consumers, an accumulation which could well become feasible if enough governments and NGOs encouraged the adoption of such practices, and if governments fostered them through schemes such as carbon trading and environmentally-friendly energy-generation. For example, wild species that might have become extinct could continue to flourish; communities that might have become processions of environmental refugees could continue to make their own contributions to cultural diversity and in some cases to sustainable lifestyles; and ice caps and ocean currents might continue to facilitate a largely benign global weather system. Thus, the topics of indirect impacts and mediated responsibilities need not be seen as simply one of duties to avoid matters becoming worse. They can also concern ways in which life can be enhanced.

Ecological Debt

However, further light can be thrown on these topics by consideration of what the economist Juan Martinez-Alier has called “ecological debt.”13 Martinez-Alier detects ecological debt in two conflicts between poor and rich countries. The first lies in the inadequate compensation paid for the raw materials of relatively poor countries by richer ones. In view of the power of the latter to determine or largely to determine world prices, there is probably much in what he says, but the kind of debt involved seems less obviously ecological than that of the second conflict that he brings to attention as follows: “Second, rich countries make a disproportionate use of environmental space or services without payment, and even without recognition of other people's entitlements to such services (particularly, the disproportionate free use of carbon dioxide sinks and reservoirs).”14 Certainly if we hold that each person has an equal entitlement to access the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb greenhouse gas emissions, then countries using more than the total entitlements of their citizens or their resident population are making use of the entitlements of others, and often without payment.

That each person has such an equal entitlement cannot be fully argued here, but could be supported either on consequentialist or on Kantian grounds, or alternatively on grounds of natural justice. Martinez-Alier thus has good grounds for his clearest identification of a case of ecological debt. But if so, our actions have the unlooked-for implication of depriving other peoples of recognition and payment for their entitlements to atmospheric services, a kind of impact for which responsibility can reasonably be recognized, albeit on a mediated basis. Indeed, the concept of ecological debt has a well-established literature, as related by Martinez-Alier.15

Sometimes, indeed, the use of other countries' environmental space and services is more direct and overt. For there is an international trade in the dumping of pollutant substances, such as dioxin-laden ash, often in exchange for payments that are determined by the slender bargaining power of the receiving countries. James Sterba has written about this trade in Justice for Here and Now,16 and Carl Talbot has christened it “toxic imperialism.” Examples of it are also briefly discussed in my 2003 book Environmental Ethics.17 This trade seems itself to exemplify the generation of both of the kinds of ecological debt identified by Martinez-Alier. But there are other practices plausibly falling under this description and more closely related to climate change.

Further Impacts of Forms of Trade

For Western consumer societies have become dependent on the cheap manufacture of clothes and artefacts in Asian countries such as India and China, and many of our apparently innocuous practices of retail sales and of shopping have come to depend on such production. Yet, the practices on which we have come to rely often embody very poor employment and environmental standards, sometimes involving the exploitation of workers, and sometimes inefficient use of energy and the consequent pollution of the atmosphere; and the relevant pollutant substances will almost certainly include greenhouse gases, although if international agreements are being honored, they probably do not include CFCs.

In terms of quantity, these emissions probably do not compare with the emissions from traffic in Western cities. But when varieties of mediated responsibility are under consideration, they should not be forgotten. Those directly responsible for such emissions are agents in distant places. But the incentives for them to initiate and develop these practices are the purchasing power of Western consumers, and in the absence of our behavior as consumers, these practices of manufacture would probably either not take place, or would adopt different forms better suited to local markets. So here we have a case where one set of agents brings it about that others engage in polluting activities. Responsibility is mediated through the actions of others, but cannot for that reason be declared nonexistent. Besides the undeniable presence of causal responsibility, it is difficult to deny that those who participate in and benefit from this trade have a share in the moral responsibility for its range of impacts, including not only prosperity for entrepreneurs but also adverse impacts on the ecosystems and atmosphere of Asia. But the atmosphere of Asia is the same atmosphere as the global atmosphere, the one whose concentrations of greenhouse gases we should be seeking to minimize.18

Once this kind of mediated responsibility has been introduced, many other kinds may well spring to mind. For example, most of us purchase and benefit from products of long-distance transport, whether in the form of food, clothing, or other goods. In so doing, we become complicit in the carbon emissions of trucks and lorries, and sometimes in the air miles or sea miles of the intercontinental freight trade. In some cases, there would be no other way in which health-giving items such as bananas could reach our local store; but frequently it is otherwise, and our participation by association in such long-distance trading is a matter of voluntary choice.

Such, perhaps, is life in a globalizing world; yet consumers retain some measure of discretion, and have on occasion made a difference at a distance, through the exercise of consumer power, as with the boycott of South African products during the apartheid epoque, and through the activities of NGOs such as those mentioned at pages 82–84 of my book Environmental Ethics.19 Thus, where we continue purchasing, we often have both causal responsibility for the emissions just mentioned, and a measure of moral responsibility, given the capacity to find out about the impacts of our purchasing, and the ability to do otherwise. So even though others have causal and probably moral responsibility too, we can hardly shrug off moral responsibility, once again of a mediated kind. Nor do these responsibilities disappear simply because the world has become very complicated, or because there is not enough time to think through the impacts of all our actions. Indeed the very technology that gives rise to the problems has also made it possible for pressure groups like Friends of the Earth and others to disseminate information about current systems and effective campaigning, and thus for individuals to behave as responsible consumers rather than passive ones. On a similar basis, governments too must be regarded as having real mediated responsibilities.

Rethinking Decision-Making and International Collaboration

Nevertheless, many of the problems mentioned cannot be tackled adequately without international agreements, as well as the full participation of national governments, and global warming is manifestly a case in point. But some of the aspects of our responsibilities already mentioned, for example for spatially and temporally dispersed impacts, for probable impacts and for the likely but not quite certain crossing of thresholds, make this difficult and stretch the recognized basis for political decision making. It could be maintained that these aspects relate to political philosophy, and should be reserved for some different occasion. But part of my contention is that the very changed context of ethics requires us to rethink not only our responsibilities and related ethical questions, but also how we should collaborate to discharge responsibilities in a technological and interconnected world. Another part is that where significant good or harm can be achieved through an accumulation of tiny impacts of action, but it happens to be difficult to coordinate actions simply by advocacy and example, we should employ public institutions in order to publicize the problems, and public policy in order to encourage beneficent rather than harmful cumulative impacts. We already do this in many ways, such as publicly sponsored health insurance schemes, among others.

To express the problems in another way, we need to discover ways in which to take account of the impacts of current action on all the future generations likely to be affected thereby, plus the impacts on contemporaries who are not fellow-citizens, and live on the far side of boundaries or oceans, plus the impacts on nonhuman creatures worldwide, both now and in the future. In the case of global warming, all these impacts of current action are relevant to policies and their formation in the present. Fortunately, some legislators are capable of grasping the far-reaching nature of the impacts of current action, and ethically enlightened enough to recognize related responsibilities, and so the situation is not hopeless. But difficulties arise as soon as we focus on the very forums of decision making devised to facilitate shared decisions and formulate public policy.

For our constitutions require us to give special consideration to sovereign territory and the national interest, while international law requires us to respect the sovereign independence of the territory of others. Accordingly, the first duty of each legislature is widely seen to be the upholding of national security and of the bolstering of the national economic interest over the immediate next few years. Yet molding current policy in ways devised to uphold the interests of future people, nonhuman species or foreigners could well be seen as conflicting with such a duty. I have even seen it suggested that having regard for the interests of the distant future is actually unconstitutional in a republic whose constitution was drawn up to guarantee the independence of current citizens and legislators from the demands of others, whether the others are speaking for themselves or their near or distant successors. But if proposals from international bodies are to be rejected simply because they come from international bodies, there can be little hope that national governments will accede to international agreements, however important their subject. If, however, the problems have the international character described earlier, there is every reason to consider suggested forms of international collaboration as proposed at international gatherings such as those held at Rio (1992) and Kyoto (1997) and Montreal (2005), even if that might mean some voluntary abridgement of sovereignty in the cause of making such collaboration effective.

I have also seen it suggested that heeding the long-term good of humanity would be unconstitutional because undemocratic. Democracy, this line of argument goes, presupposes that policy will be based on the interests of the electorate, who are entitled to deselect any government or officers who fail to act in these interests. So deeply is this presupposition ingrained in democratic constitutions that if public policy has any other basis the shared constitutional framework of democratic polities is undermined. This argument, it seems to me, confuses a weakness of our democratic system, with respect to which governments are prone to slant their policies to what is likely to please the electorate at the next election, with how they ought to function, a weakness that also makes governments prone to disregard or at least partially discount longer-term considerations. For if the protection of national security and the national interest is among the duties of government, it must be a duty to facilitate the conditions in which the continued well-being of the nation will remain in place for at least a number of decades, and this involves concern for relevant weather systems and ecosystems, which are likely to include those shared with other nations as well as ones specific to a country's own borders and territory. Since, further, continued national prosperity would be affected by ecological disasters and pandemics initially situated elsewhere, there must be some kind of duty to adopt policies concerned for the ecosystems and weather systems of other countries as well. If, for example, the hotter surface layers of tropical seas and oceans are generating hurricanes affecting United States territory, the aim of curtailing such climate change, probably through international collaboration, could well be a legitimate aspect of federal U.S. policy.

Decision-Making for the Longer Term

But even if democracy is compatible with policies concerned for interests beyond those of the current electorate, there remain problems about whether public decision making is not going to be perennially prone to be skewed toward current interests and away from broader interests and longer-term interests, however much ethics may recognize all these interests, and responsibilities in their regard. (Even if many individual voters have broader horizons than this might suggest, there is also a danger that corporations may bring it about that public decisions are skewed in just such a way.) For governments, like citizens, cannot but be seen as bearing mediated responsibilities for the far-flung impacts of their actions and policies, and yet public decision making, like ethical theory, is always in danger of seeing itself as having too narrow a scope, and not taking into account the full range of its impacts and its powers, granted the mediated responsibilities of governments as well as those of individual citizens.

To counteract such dangers, decision makers should consider whether to appoint advisers or even a few members of their legislature appointed to represent unrepresented parties, such as future people, and perhaps those species most affected by that legislature's decisions, with duties to consider relevant aspects of proposed legislation, and entitlements to have their reports taken into account. The issue of exactly how such representatives of the unrepresented would best be appointed would of course need to be tackled, but this is not the occasion to discuss it. What is more important is to find ways (and better ways may well be suggested) in which the many parties affected by current actions and policies can be taken into account when decisions are being taken. For if their interests are unheeded, then the scope of ethics, as delineated above, and the related range of impacts of current action and inaction, will remain unmatched in our attempts at public collaboration. But such are the scope of ethics and the range of our responsibilities (both as individuals and as nations) that we precisely need systems of public collaboration enabling responsible decisions to be reached that take into account this full scope and this full range.

We also need matching international collaboration, similarly informed about the impacts of human action and inaction, as may at last be beginning to happen since the 2005 Montreal Conference. In any case, while sovereignty remains legally with national governments, the prospects for adequate international collaboration are bound to depend on the eventual willingness of national authorities to address not just the immediate and local consequences of action, but all the mediated consequences also. And this clearly holds sway across the fields of global warming and climate change.


  • 1

    Hans Jonas, The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age, trans. Hans Jonas and David Herr (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984); originally published as Das Prinzip Verantwortung: Versuch einer Ethic für die technologische Zivilisation (Insel Verlag: Frankfurt am Main, 1979) and Macht oder Ohnmacht der Subjecktivität? Das Leib-Seele-Problem im Vorfeld des Prinzips Verantwortung (Insel Verlag: Frankfurt am Main, 1981).

  • 2

    I have contributed to this undertaking in Robin Attfield, Value, Obligation and Meta-Ethics (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Éditions Rodopi, 1995), and in Robin Attfield, Environmental Ethics: An Overview for the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Polity, 2003).

  • 3

    Barnabas Dickson, “The Ethicist Conception of Environmental Problems,”Environmental Values 9 (2000): 127–52; Samuel Sheffler, “Individual Responsibility in a Global Age,”Social Philosophy and Policy 12 (1995): 219–36.

  • 4

    Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 70.

  • 5

    Ibid., 78–82.

  • 6

    Ibid., 71–72.

  • 7

    Ibid., 81.

  • 8

    Ibid., 86.

  • 9

    Jonas, Imperative of Responsibility, 7.

  • 10

    Donald Brown, American Heat: Ethical Problems with the United States' Response to Global Warming (Lanham, MD and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

  • 11


  • 12

    Molly Conisbee and Andrew Simms, Environmental Refugees: The Case for Recognition (London: New Economics Foundation, 2003).

  • 13

    Juan Martinez-Alier, The Environmentalism of the Poor: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation (Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2002).

  • 14

    Ibid., 213.

  • 15

    Ibid.; Robin Attfield, The Ethics of the Global Environment (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 142.

  • 16

    James Sterba, Justice for Here and Now (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

  • 17

    Attfield, Environmental Ethics, 116.

  • 18

    Brown, American Heat.

  • 19

    Attfield, Environmental Ethics, 82–84.