What Climate Policy Can a Utilitarian Justify?

  • Bernward Gesang


This essay sketches out what a utilitarian should support when considering global warming along with what measures can be recommended to political leaders for utilitarian reasons. If we estimate the utility of the great advantages that any ambitious climate policy might create in the name of poverty reduction in the present, I will show how a decision can be made in favor of a vigorous climate policy based on such estimates. My argument is independent of the truth of the claims of climate sceptics. Until now, the debate has neglected the double effects of a vigorous climate policy that not only avoids risks of damages but also creates utility. In conclusion, three strategies of a climate policy legitimized by utilitarianism will be introduced: (1) Utilitarianism favors global emissions trading in comparison with a global CO2 tax. (2) Utilitarianism calls for this trade to be introduced while, at the same time, investments in renewable energies should be increased. (3) Furthermore, utilitarianism favors a policy that aims to slow down the rate of population growth.


Climate ethics Utilitarianism Climate policy 



I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this paper for their helpful comments! Further I want to thank Bryan Scheler for his comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für Philosophie mit Schwerpunkt WirtschaftsethikUniversität MannheimMannheimGermany

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