Fact-insensitive thought experiments in climate ethics – Exemplified by Parfit’s non-identity problem

In Tahseen Jafry (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Climate Justice. London: Routledge. pp. 42-56 (2018)
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More than some other fields of ethics, climate ethics is related to pressing real-world problems. Climate ethicists have a responsibility to be precise about the status of the problems they discuss. The non-identity problem (NIP) plays are a prominent role in the climate ethics literature. In a widely discussed statement, Derek Parfit claimed that a risky climate policy is not harmful for (distant) future people. But this ignores the “insignificant-causal-factors rejoinder”. The Parfitian assertion is still treated as serious problem to theories of climate justice in key philosophical texts, and this may mislead climate policy decision-makers. Philosophers should acknowledge that the NIP, when applied to climate change, is “just” a thought experiment and should communicate it in this way to people outside the philosophical community.
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