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The Public and Private Morality of Climate Change John Broome The Tanner Lectures on Human Values Delivered at University of Michigan March 16, 2012 John Broome is the Whites Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College in Oxford. He was previously Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews and before that Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol. His published books are The Microeconomics of Capitalism ; Weighing Lives: Equality, Uncertainty, and Time; Counting the Cost of Global Warming; Out of Economics; and Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World. He is at present working on a book about normativity, rationality, and reasoning, entitled Rationality through Reasoning, to be published by Wiley-Blackwell. [5] We as individuals are subject to various moral duties. We have a duty to be kind to strangers, to keep our promises, to look after our parents when they are old, and so on. Collective entities, including our governments, are also subject to moral duties, or so I assume. I assume that a government should not imprison innocent people, it should protect refugees, it should support the destitute, and so on, and that these are moral duties. The moral duties of governments—whatever they are—I call “public morality.” They generate derivative moral duties for citizens: we should do what is appropriate to get our government to act rightly, and support it when it does. These duties I call “civic morality.” By “private morality,” I mean the morality of our private lives; private morality does not include our civic duties. Climate change creates duties within both public and private morality . I shall describe some of them. Duties of Justice and Duties of Goodness Moral duties fall into two broad classes: duties of justice and duties of goodness or beneficence. There may be other sorts of moral duties, too, but I shall be concerned only with these two. I start by making the distinction between them. The duty of goodness is to make the world better. Some libertarians deny that people as individuals have this duty. I disagree with those libertarians , but I have no need to argue with them here. My conclusions about private morality will not call on this duty of goodness. However, I shall assume that governments have a duty of goodness; I assume they have a duty to make the world better for their own citizens at least. For instance, they should create their country’s economic infrastructure and design their banking regulations with that aim in mind. Improving the world is not our only moral duty. When an action of yours would improve the world, you are not necessarily morally required to do it, and sometimes you are not even morally permitted to do it. A famous example is the case of a surgeon who has five patients, each needing an organ in order to survive: one needs a heart, another a liver, a third a kidney, and so on. Suppose the surgeon kills an innocent visitor to the hospital and distributes her organs to the five patients, thereby saving five lives at the expense of one. That leads to a net benefit; it improves the world. Yet this surgeon’s act is not morally permissible. So there must be some other source of moral duties that can oppose the duty of goodness. There is evidently some sort of a moral duty not The Tanner Lectures on Human Values 6 to harm people, even for the sake of the greater overall good. This is not merely a duty to take account of as a harm, as a negative good, in the course of performing your duty to improve the world. If it were, the surgeon I described would not be acting wrongly, whereas actually she is. On the other hand, the duty not to harm is not unlimited; there are occasions when it is morally permissible to harm someone. For instance, you may do harm in self-defense, and you may harm a person when you are inflicting a deserved punishment on her. I am sorry to say I cannot accurately delineate the boundaries of the duty not to harm, but I hope soon to identify one instance of it convincingly. I take this duty not to harm to be a duty of justice. Other philosophers may classify it differently, and nothing will turn on the classification . It does have at least one feature that is characteristic of justice. It is...


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