Ethics In IR And Climate Change
The barriers to ethical action on international climate change challenges are a problem of collective action,
and understanding why countries cooperative with each other and why.
Ethical and Environmental
• Aristotle: “nature has made all things specifically for the sake of man” and nonhuman things in
nature are valued only as instrumental”
• wealthier nations consume more than lower income countries, creating more waste
• environmental justice, public health, future generations
• common-pool resources (CPRs) are natural or human-made resources where one person’s use
subtracts from another’s use and where it is often necessary, but difficult and costly, to exclude
other users outside the group fro using resources
o CPRs are rival goods
o CPRs are always vulnerable to overuse and exhaustion, as what is individually rational is
in the aggregate “highly problematic”
• the commons: common land available to all for grazing animals, gathering wood, etc.
o a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest
• Tragedy of the Commons: a metaphor for anything held in common, used by all freely and
o everyone will maximize his own benefit to the detriment of the whole
o negative-sum games—the pie is shrinking
the gains and losses will add up to less than zero
only way for a party to maintain its position is to take something from another
even if everyone takes his/her own share, everyone still loses in comparison to
what they currently have or really need
o the New Commons:
includes: oceans (overfishing), air, land, and rivers (pollution), public noise level
(sound pollution), national parks (overuse), earth itself (energy, food supply,
living standards), overpopulation
o ethically speaking
over-fishing would starve millions, but your impact on per-boat catch is trivial;
is it wrong to put your boat to sea?
an act can be wrong even if it has trivial or imperceptible effects
must consider the total harm each inflicts and the harm all inflict together so
hurt country today or hurt country in the future…?
o many environmental problems have long-term effects—is it wrong to cause harm in the
without discounting, our obligation are infinite; economists discount the future
by n% per year; but does moral importance decline at that rate?
o current harms?
International cooperation on environmental issues
o prisoner’s dilemma in the commons 4 possible outcomes for two firms who both rely on an environmental good
which is best sustained by a clean environment
in the LR, its in their interest to redu