Volume 23, 2008
Philosophy of Environment
Global Warming, Equity and Future Generations
The phenomenon of global warming, the anthropogenic theory of its genesis and some of the implications of that theory are introduced as a case-study of a global environmental problem involving issues of equity between peoples, generations and species. We should favour the proportioning of emission quotas to
population, if the charges of anthropocentrism and of discrimination against future generations can be avoided. It is argued that these charges can be replied to satisfactorily, if emissions totals are set low enough for the likely needs of other species and other generations. There should also be limits to the inter-state trading of quotas to ensure that all countries retain enough of their quotas to satisfy basic needs. The anthropogenic theory might instead be held to favour
tying emissions quotas to aggregate historical emissions of the last two centuries. But intergenerational equity requires a sustainable international regime, based on universal principles rather than history.