The Acceleration of Global Warming as Crime Against Humanity: A Moral Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment

In David Boonin (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Verlag. pp. 779-793 (2018)
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This chapter constructs the argument that corporate and political policies known to accelerate anthropogenic global warming, and subsequent climate change, constitute crimes against humanity—predicated on failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable threats to sustained human existence. Given the moral gravity of crimes against humanity it follows that financial divestment is ethically obligatory for institutions wishing to avoid moral association. The moral case for fossil fuel divestment, in the wake of such crimes, derives from (a) the ethical implications of negative responsibility, or what constitutes culpability by omission; (b) institutional collaboration based upon immediate financial interests tied to climate inaction; and (c) institutional complicity derived from financial support of corporate behaviors that hasten global warming. Possible objections are examined and refuted.

Author's Profile

Lawrence Torcello
Rochester Institute of Technology


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