Climate ethics and future generations

What should the current generation do about climate change when our decisions do not only affect how future generations will live, but also who and how many people will exist?

The main question of this research program is to investigate what the present generation should do with regard to climate change given that our choices will not just have an impact on future generations but also determine who and how many people will exist in the future.

Informed decision-making about climate change policy requires not only an understanding of scientific facts, but also a firm grasp of the values and normative principles at stake. Should we be aiming for a smaller or larger population? How much ecological space and other natural resources must we save for people who will live longer after we die? Such questions pose a great challenge to our ordinary theories of justice and ethics, which have been designed with a set number of contemporaries in mind. The guidance offered by these theories in relation to future people is often unclear or counterintuitive – sometimes even paradoxical.

Bringing together an outstanding set of philosophers and social scientists, this program seeks to understand the values and principles that go into intergenerational relations. It investigates various problems in population ethics and the requirements of climate justice across generations, as well as how the requirements of ethics and justice could be approximated in practice. It also investigates under what circumstances people care more or less about future people and climate change and are willing to make a sacrifice for their sake.

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Read the final report of the programme >



Principal Investigator

Gustaf Arrhenius Director and Professor, Practical Philosophy
Krister Bykvist Professor, Practical Philosophy
Göran Duus-Otterström Professor, Political Science

Project members

Emil Andersson PhD, Philosophy
Karin Bäckstrand Professor, Environmental Social Science
John Broome Emeritus White’s Professor, Moral Philosophy
Tim Campbell PhD, Philosophy
Malcolm Fairbrother Professor, Sociology
Hilary Greaves Professor, Philosophy
Johan E. Gustafsson Associate Professor, Philosophy
Anders Herlitz Associate Professor, Practical Philosophy
Karim Jebari PhD., Philosophy
Martin Kolk Associate Professor, Demography
Julia Mosquera PhD, Philosophy
Wlodek Rabinowicz Senior Professor, Practical Philosophy
Melinda A. Roberts Professor, Philosophy
Joe Roussos PhD, Philosophy
Katie Steele Associate Professor, Philosophy
H. Orri Stefánsson Professor, Practical Philosophy
Olle Torpman Associate Professor, Philosophy
Stéphane Zuber Research professor

Other project members


Riksbankens Jubileumsfond