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Environmental Ethics

Volume 15, Issue 2, Summer 1993

Clive L. Spash
Pages 117-132

Economics, Ethics, and Long-Term Environmental Damages

Neither environmental economics nor environmental philosophy have adequately examined the moral implications of imposing environmental degradation and ecosystem instability upon our descendants. A neglected aspect of these problems is the supposed extent of the burden that the current generation is placing on future generations. The standard economic position on discounting implies an ethical judgment concerning future generations. If intergenerational obligations exist, then two types of intergenerational transfer must be considered: basic distributional transfers and compensatory transfers. Basic transfers have been the central intergenerational concern of both environmental economics and philosophy, but compensatory transfers emphasize obligations of a kind often disregarded.

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