“Climate Change and Civilization Collapse” by Daniel Steel (University of British Columbia)
This paper motivates and considers philosophical implications of civilization collapse caused by anthropogenic climate change. First, it argues that climate civilization collapse is a real possibility: many experts believe that 4°C could lead to collapse, and the IPCC’s recent assessment report’s high-emission socioeconomic pathways include that level of warming in their very likely (66-100%) range by 2100. Second, it argues that taking the risk of climate civilization collapse seriously challenges two longstanding assumptions in climate change ethics: (a) that stable governments capable of promoting justice will exist in the long-term, and (b) that net benefits from aggressive climate change mitigation for current generations would be minimal at best. The paper argues that, if we relax these assumptions, that means climate ethics should consider responsibilities in circumstances without governmental coordination and consider young versus old people as opposed to intergenerational conflict.