Ethics/Politics Seminar: "Do Parents Have a Special Duty to Mitigate Climate Change?"

Elizabeth Cripps (Edinburgh): "Do Parents Have a Special Duty to Mitigate Climate Change?" A seminar co-hosted by Centre for Ethics and Metaethics and the Political Theory and Cultural Values Group.

Date: 22-02-2017
Time: 16:15 - 17:45

Dr Cripps is a Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and an Associate Director of the Just World Institute at the University of Edinburgh. Her research and teaching interests focus on climate change ethics and justice, collective responsibility, population and justice, parental duties, and duties to non-human animals. More information about her work can be found on her web page.


This paper argues that parents have a special, shared duty to organise for collective action on climate change mitigation and adaptation. They have this over and above more general duties of justice or humanity that we all have to do so. However, they have it not for the apparently most obvious reasons. The obvious argument appeals to children’s uncontroversially central interests, such as life, health, and community, which are threatened by climate change. While it goes beyond many standard models of parental duties to include protection against such harms in adulthood, this is plausible. However, a duty to protect one’s own children in this narrow sense need not imply a duty to mitigate it. Rather, the shared duty follows from the indirect interest that today’s children have in not seeing their immediate descendants condemned to great suffering, and in reconciling their own interests and relationships with the perspective of the moral agent. These are such important aspects of a human life that parents have a duty to protect them for their children, if reasonably possible through individual or collective action. Mitigation and adaptation are also required to fulfil duties owed, at least arguably, to more distant descendants.  

Location: Social Science Building, room 14.33
Cost: Free