CALL FOR PAPERS – Symposium: A Changing Moral Climate, Gardiner’s A Perfect Moral Storm

Philosophy And Public Issues: A Journal of Moral, Political, Legal and Social Philosophy
Special Symposium: A Changing Moral Climate, with a discussion of Stephen Gardiner’s A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change
Guest Editor
: Marcello Di Paola


Invited Contributors:

  • Simon Caney (University of Oxford)
  • Dale W. Jamieson (New York University)
  • Christopher Preston (University of Montana)
  • Ronald Sandler (Northwestern University)
  • Stephen M. Gardiner (University of Washington).

Aims and Background:  Most contemporary philosophers recognize the unprecedented challenges that the phenomenon of climate change poses to our moral intuitions, our moral and political systems, our motivational springs, and our economic and legal paradigms.  Some have attempted to provide comprehensive diagnoses of these challenges and to suggest conceptual angles from which to approach them.  Most of the work produced by philosophers on various aspects of climate change (e.g. personal and institutional responsibility, justice, the claims of future generations, the fate of non-human nature, worst case scenario’s, possible responses, the proper role of science) have been as stimulating as they have proven controversial.  There is a growing and rich discussion on the topic, which this special volume of Philosophy and Public Issues wants to capture and disclose.  We encourage submissions of original papers that philosophically explore aspects of the topic of climate change from a moral, political, or legal perspective.  We expect original contributions discussing problems such as (but not limited to): 

  • the appropriate conceptualization of the problem;
  • the solidity of our considered moral intuitions in the face of it, and the applicability of our mainstream moral theories;
  • individual and institutional obligations;
  • the obstacles it poses to our moral psychology, and how (if) these can be overcome;
  • the relationship between science and policy;
  • the status of climate change as a problem of global justice;
  • the status of democracy as an asset or a liability when responding to it;
  • the prospects for a market-based treatment of the problem;
  • the role, feasibility, and admissibility of new technologies and policies such as geo-engineering and population control; 
  • … or any other relevant topic, subject to the Editors’ approval.

This special issue will include a discussion of Stephen Gardiner’s A Perfect Moral Storm: the Ethical tragedy of Climate Change (OUP 2012), with commentaries by Simon Caney, Marcello Di Paola, Dale Jamieson, Gianfranco Pellegrino, Christopher Preston, and Ronal Sandler, followed by . Stephen Gardiner’s replies.

Submission Details:  Please send a (.rtf, .doc or .docx) file containing a long abstract (1,000 words max) and a title, prepared for blind review with all revealing references to the author removed.  All personal information (name, affiliation, and contact) must be submitted separately, along with a short abstract (200 words max).  Deadline for abstract submission is September 15, 2012.  Decisions will be made within a month.

Upon notification of acceptance, you will be invited to submit the full paper (10,000 words max) no later than January 15, 2012.  The volume will be published in April 2013. Contributions that do not make it to the volume may be considered for subsequent publication in one of the regular volumes of Philosophy and Public Issues.  All material should be submitted to

Further Inquiries: Please direct any queries about this call for papers to Marcello Di Paola at  or PPI’s Editors at

CONFERENCE REPORT – On Values in Nature (May 2, 2005)

Submitted by Christopher Schlottmann, New York University

On May 2, 2005, Princeton’s Center for Human Values, together with the Princeton Environmental Institute, and Council of the Humanities, sponsored a workshop entitled “Values in Nature: The Role of Ethics in Environmental Policy.” It was a gathering of remarkably impressive and competent thinkers, whose expertise spanned the fields of environmental ethics, environmental aesthetics , environmental literature, environmental policy, environmental history, and environmental sciences, in addition to a number of participants whose specialty falls outside of the traditional environmental community. This latter quality made it especially stimulating, and the conversations were open-minded and oriented towards practical policies, all while maintaining a high level of theoretical discussion.

Having celebrities present always stimulates conversation. The final panel, “When Values Conflict,” was overshadowed by environmentalism’s newest movers and shakers, Michael Shellenberger and Tod Nordhaus. Skepticism and praise for their “Death of Environmentalism” paper dominated the Q&A session. Obviously, an entire conference could be devoted to their debates. The only downside was that the papers of other panel members – Michael Toman, Michael MacCracken, Stephen Gardiner – tackled the ethical dimensions of environmental policy quite directly and rigorously, yet failed to enter the conversation.

Shellenberger and Nordhaus’s premise is that environmentalists have “framed” their cause incorrectly. People don’t respond well to this: “If the frame and the facts conflict, people often reject the facts.” Therefore, environmentalists should frame their cause within the American mythology of aspiration. Of course, environmentalism’s failings cannot be solved by simply advertising differently, but reframing might be the best strategy to achieve political goals.

Selling the idea of a “frame” also seems to entail committing to one, and the conversation remained narrowly focused. Important questions that deserved serious answers were left hanging: Why not appeal to American’s sense of fairness instead of aspiration? Is marketing an environmental policy prudent and ethical, or should we instead work on educating for informed decision-making? Does it matter if the myth of aspiration doesn’t apply to most Americans?

Too much of a good conversation is of course a good thing, but the “Death of Environmentalism” paper is only one of many ideas currently making its rounds that should incite reflection. Gardiner’s caution about the remarkable ethical challenges of GCC – a “perfect storm” of the convergence of the 3 problems of: global scale (incl. dispersion of agency, inadequate institutional scales), temporal scale (including intergenerational ethics), and theoretical concerns (incl. scientific uncertainty, potential persons, non-human animals) – seems like a much more daunting long-term challenge than how to “sell” environmentalism. Determining what our obstacles are, and what moral aims we have, is at least as important as how to get people to behave in accordance with those aims (assuming that this latter goal isn’t morally problematic itself). Environmental ethics is not a justification for present environmentalism, and keeping the purposes of each distinct would help to establish the best environmental policies. Both the ethics community and Shellenberger and Nordhaus want to reform how we determine environmental policy goals, but seem to use distinct means. Are we even aiming at the right goal? If so, are we using the proper means that will ensure long-term sustainability? This is the conversation that we should be having. Further, educators and political theorists should have a vitally important voice in this dialog.  Their voice might replace the urgent goal of winning a policy or election with the longterm project of encouraging democratic engagement and critical thinking. Even better, perhaps a reconciliation of these two goals is possible.

Grist’s extensive series on “The Death of Environmentalism ” is available at: