Climate Change, Ethics and Responsibility

Partners and collaborators

Steering Group: Barry Clarke (Professor of Geotechnical Engineering and previously president of Institute of Civil Engineers), Alan Walker (Head of Policy, Royal Academy of Engineering), Deborah Seddon (Head of Policy, Engineering Council), Chris Megone (Professor of Applied Ethics, IDEA Centre), Graeme Gooday (Professor of History of Science and Technology), Richard Smith (Engineer at Thames Water Conall Doherty, Structural Engineer, BuroHappold Engineering), Hayley Sharp (Infrastructure Advisor, Department for International Development).

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Description

Background

An important part of the project was its interdisciplinary nature, bringing together philosophers, historians and engineers. Increasingly, moral and political philosophers are focusing on the ethics of climate change, and climate ethics is establishing itself as vibrant area of study for philosophers. Historians also have much to offer, in relation to climate ethics, by considering examples of coercive and liberty-limiting regulations from the past, such as rationing in World War II, and also by considering examples of significant social change, political action and moral progress - such as the abolition of slavery. Meanwhile, engineers have played a significant role in climate change in the past and, more positively, will be at the heart of any responses to climate change in the future. However, there has been relatively little collaboration between these disciplines. A key aim of this project is to respond to this lack by encouraging and facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration, through events, publications, and steering group meetings.

The project considered the ethical issues at different levels, as well as considering the inter-relation between those levels:

  1. Government/policy
  2. Individuals (especially in the context of a government not implementing the policies it should)
  3. The Engineering profession

Representatives of the Engineering profession were involved in the project from the start, contributing to the project's steering group, as well as contributing to the workshops and conference.

In addition, after the project had ended, this project led to a spin off project in which Helen Morley and myself collaborated with Engineers without Borders UK to consider the question of whether professional institutions could develop a declaration of global responsibilities (based on the idea of professions taking a lead on an important global ethical issue, as the World Medical Association did when developing the Declaration of Helsinki.) 


People

"Climate Change, Ethics and Responsibility" was an inter-disciplinary project, integrating philosophical ethics, history, and engineering.

The project was led by Dr Rob Lawlor, who explored the ethics of climate change, with a particular focus on the responsibilities of engineers and the engineering profession, in addition to the responsibilities of government, and the public.

Josie Freear was the research assistant. She considered the history and ethics of rationing, considering the question of whether we can learn any lessons from rationing in World War II, which can illuminate how we may use policies to reduce carbon emissions.

In addition, the project benefited from having a steering group, which included representatives from business and engineering, in addition to academics.


Contact

If you are interested in this project or have any questions please contact Dr Rob Lawlor directly: r.s.lawlor@leeds.ac.uk, or contact the IDEA Centre on the details below:

Email: idea@leeds.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 113 343 7799

Postal address: 
Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre 
University of Leeds 
8-12 Fenton Street 
Leeds LS2 9JT

Publications and outputs

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Events and Videos

Videos from Events

27 August 2015 - 10 am Climate Change and Corporations

A morning event bringing together expert views from a variety of disciplines and experiences discussing what responsibilities corporations have, in relation to climate change, but also to think of the other direction – e.g. what governments should be doing to limit corporate power or to impose regulations etc. (And perhaps also non-government action, such as protests and divestment.)

 

27 August 2015 - 2pm Climate Change and International Conflict and Coercion

An afternoon event bringing together expert views from a variety of disciplines discussing at what methods nations could use to "persuade" other nations into taking appropriate action, regarding climate change, and which of these approaches could be morally justified? Topics considered are likely to include sanctions and blockades, war and threats, incentives and bribes.

 

25th March 2015 - One-day interdisciplinary workshop on The History and Future of Rationing

This workshop sought to invite discussion of both the historical experiences of rationing and potential use of rationing in the future, to explore ideas of acceptability and fairness in the organisation, distribution and consumption of limited resources. 

 

12th June 2015 - Engineers and Climate Change

This event focussed on the role that the engineering profession can play in responding to climate change, with a particular focus on professional institutions, industry and education. The event was held at the Royal Academy of Engineering under the Chatham House Rule. However, presentations from the event were also presented at the Ethics Centre's 10 year anniversary, and Andrew Chilvers also presented his summary of the event.

 

21st June 2015 -  Perspectives of Climate Change - Public event

The public event on the 21st of June was an informal event, held in the upstairs room of the Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, aiming to inform the public about climate change, and to give people a chance to ask leading academics (from a range of different disciplines) about climate change and responses to climate change.

The event consisted of a number of short presentations (about 5 minutes), ending with a panel discussion, in which the speakers responded to questions from the audience.

 

22nd to 23rd June 2015 - Two day interdisciplinary conference on Climate Change, Policy and Responsibilities

This conference focused on questions of government policy and individual responsibilities, and the inter-relations between these.  

 

September 2015 - Climate Change, Engineering and History

A session from the Ethics Centre's 10 year anniversary, focusing on climate change and engineering, and also some discussion of rationing and climate change, and a summary of the AHRC project as a whole.

 

September 2015 - Teaching Engineering Ethics

A session from the Ethics Centre's 10 year anniversary, focusing on the teaching of engineering ethics.

 


The History and Future of Rationing workshop - 25th March 2015

Important note:  the videos below don't seem to work with Chrome, but they will work on other browsers.

Videos

Rob Lawlor, University of Leeds, "Not For Love Nor Money"


Stefan Kesting, Leeds University Business School, "Can price control in conjunction with and supported by rationing work? A Galbraithian perspective"


Tina Fawcett, University of Oxford, "Rationing in Response to Climate Change"


Mark Roodhouse, University of York, "'Rationing Returns?' Eight Years Later"

Note that the paper that Mark Roodhouse is referring to here can be found here


Henry Irving, School of Advanced Studies, "Saving paper in the Second World War: A case study in rationing and its alternatives"


Ingrid de Zwarte, University of Amsterdam, "Food rationing and famine: Government regulated nutrition and consumer agency during the Dutch "Hunger Winter", 1944 – 1945" (recording not available)


Josie Freear, University of Leeds, "Fuel Rationing in 1942: the limits of acceptability" 

‘The History and Future of Rationing’, was held in the IDEA Centre, Leeds on Wednesday 25th March 2015.

Forming part of a wider AHRC-funded project Climate change, ethics and responsibilities: an interdisciplinary approach, the aim of this workshop was to see what researchers interested in public policy, in relation to climate change, could learn from the past, not only about rationing but also about alternatives to rationing and related issues, such as public support for different policies.


Perspectives of Climate Change - Public event - 21st June 2015

Important note:  the videos below don't seem to work with Chrome, but they will work on other browsers.

Videos

Rob Lawlor, Climate Change, Economics and History

Josie Freear, Rationing Fuel in the Second World War

Linda Steg, Mitigating Climate Change: A Psychological Perspective

 

  • And this is the video that Linda Steg refers to in her talk 

 

Martijn van Zomeren, Just how Weird are Activists

Rachel Howell, Social Norms

Bruce Yardley, Climate Change and the Laws of Nature

The Q&A discussion for this event has been broken down into the following 5 topics:

This public event on the 21st of June was an informal event, held in the upstairs room of the Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds,  to give people a chance to ask academics (from a range of different disciplines) about climate change and responses to climate change.

The event consisted of short presentations (about 5 minutes), ending with a panel discussion, in which the speakers responded to questions from the audience. (In these videos, we have divided the Q&A into sections based on questions asked.)


Climate Change, Policy and Responsibilities. An interdisciplinary conference - 22nd - 23rd June 2015, Leeds

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Important note:  the videos below don't seem to work with Chrome, but they will work on other browsers.

Videos

Rob Lawlor, Climate Change and Economics: the spell of scientificity, from 1 min 23

Rob Lawlor (presenting Josie Freear's research, as Josie was unable to attend), Climate Change and Rationing, from 42 minutes 50 seconds. 

Linda Steg, Climate Change Mitigation: A Psychological Perspective

  • And this is the video that Linda Steg refers to in her talk 

Martjin van Zomeren, Four core motivations to engage in social protest

Rachel Howell, It's not just "the environment, stupid!": Values, motivations and formative influences of climate change mitigators

Julia Steinberger, Climate Change and a New Approach to Economics

Forming part of a wider AHRC-funded project Climate change, ethics and responsibilities: an interdisciplinary approach, this conference focused on questions of government policy and individual responsibilities, and the inter-relations between these.

Speakers


Climate Change and Corporations - 27th August 2015

Important note:  the videos below don't seem to work with Chrome, but they will work on other browsers.

Videos

Alix Dietzil, Climate Change and Moral Responsibility

Rob Lawlor, Corporations and Climate Change

James Dawkins, The Regulation and Abolition of the British Slave Trade, and Compensated Emancipation, 1807-1834

Henry Irving,  Industry Salvage in the Second World War

Q&A discussion

Each speaker made a short presentation (approx. 7 minutes) followed by a panel discussion.

Thursday 27 August - University of Leeds.

This event brought together experts from different disciplines to discuss what responsibilities corporations have, in relation to climate change, but also to think of the other direction – e.g. what governments should be doing to limit corporate power or to impose regulations etc. (And perhaps also non-government action, such as protests and divestment.)

The speakers were

  • Rob Lawlor, Philosophy, climate change and ethics
  • James Dawkins, Historian, history of slavery
  • Alix Dietzel, Philosophy, ethics of climate change
  • Henry Irving, Historian, history of rationing and regulation in world war II

The event was followed by an afternoon session on Climate Change and International Conflict and Coercion. 

Venue: Cloberry Room, University House, University of Leeds. 10am.


Engineers and Climate Change

Important note:  the videos below don't seem to work with Chrome, but they will work on other browsers.

Videos

Andrew Chilvers -  Engineers and Climate Change: leadership, ethics and responsibility

Rob Lawlor - Climate Change, Ethics and Responsibilities

Rob Lawlor and Helen Morley - Rethinking the Leadership Role of the Professional Institutions (from 2 min 15)

Henry Irving - Rationing

Andrew Chilvers, Henry Irving, Rob Lawlor and Helen Morley, chaired by Elizabeth Ellis - Final Q&A

This event was recorded at the University of Leeds in September 2015, as part of the Ethics Centre's 10th anniversary. The presentation by Rob Lawlor and Helen Morley was very similar to the presentation presented at the Royal Academy of Engineering, while Andrew Chilver's presentation discussed that event as a whole. Henry Irving's presentation focused on the history and rationing aspect of this project. 


Teaching Engineering Ethics

Important note:  the videos below don't seem to work with Chrome, but they will work on other browsers.

Videos

Rob Lawlor - Engineering Ethics: What to teach and how to teach it (but not in that order)

Helen Morley - Engineering Education as Professional Formation

This event was recorded at the University of Leeds in September 2015, as part of the Ethics Centre's 10th anniversary.


Publications

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This page will include details of publications resulting from the project, and will also include links to other sites people may be interested in. 

Rob Lawlor will aim to publish papers in a range of journals, aiming not only to publish in philosophy journals, but also to publish in journals where they will be read by the relevant audience, such as Science and Engineering Ethics. Meanwhile, Josie Freear will aim to publish her research in history journals.

Publications so far:

  • "Rejecting Machin’s Complacent Democracy (and Defending the Importance of Truth, Consistency and Moral Argument)", Environmental Ethics2017
  • "Climate Change and Professional Responsibility: A Declaration of Helsinki for Engineers" with Helen Morley, Science and Engineering Ethics, 2017.
  • “The Absurdity of Economists’ Sacrifice-Free Solutions to Climate Change,” Ethics, Policy & Environment, 19, no. 3, 2016.
  • "Questioning the Significance of the Non-identity Problem in Applied Ethics", Journal of Medical Ethics, 2016. (This is not primarily on climate change, but has important implications for climate change. John Broome, for example, relies heavily on the non-identity effect in his Climate Matters.)
  • "Delaying Obsolescence", Science and Engineering Ethics2015
  • "Freezing Eggs in a Warming World", in Utiltas 2015

Blog entries:

  • Letter to the Future Prime Minister
  • Democracy and Revolution
  • Hypocrisy and Demandingness
  • Climate Change, Nationalism and Slavery
  • My reflections on cycling in Holland, and transport policy regarding climate change

Links:

 

Downloads

Programme for Climate Change Conference: 22nd - 23rd June, 2015.