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Andlinger Center Events

Date: October 7, 2015

Time: 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Location: Robertson Hall, Bowl 2

Princeton University’s Climate Futures Initiative and the University Center for Human Values are co-sponsoring a talk on October 7 as part of the Ira W. DeCamp Bioethics Seminar Series. Anja Karnein, of the State University of New York, Binghamton, will be giving a talk titled, “Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice.” The commentator for the talk is Mark Budolfson, of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The Climate Futures Initiative (CFI) is an interdisciplinary research program at Princeton University, administered by the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) and sponsored by PEI, the Princeton Institute for International Regional Studies (PIIRS) and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE).

Summary of the talk:
It is becoming less and less controversial that we ought to aggressively combat climate change. One main reason for doing so is concern for future generations, as it is they who will be the most seriously affected by it. Surprisingly, none of the more prominent theories of intergenerational justice can explain why it is wrong for the present generation to do very little to stop worsening the problem. This paper discusses three such theories, namely indirect reciprocity, common ownership of the earth and human rights. It shows that while indirect reciprocity and common ownership are both too undemanding, the human rights approach misunderstands the nature of our intergenerational relationships, thereby capturing either too much or too little about what is problematic about climate change. The paper finally suggests that an account of nondomination may be one way to avoid the pitfalls of the traditional theories and to explain why climate change violates norms of intergenerational justice.

Bio on the speaker:
Anja Karnein (Ph.D., Brandeis) is Assistant Professor at Binghamton University (SUNY) where she teaches political philosophy and (bio)ethics. She held postdoctoral positions at Harvard University and UCLA before teaching at Goethe University Frankfurt for several years. During her time in Frankfurt she was a visiting scholar at NYU and UCLA as well as visiting professor at Karl-Franzens University Graz. Her first book, A Theory of Unborn Life. From Abortion to Genetic Manipulation (OUP 2012) deals with our duties toward the future persons we create. Her current research project concerns the obligations we have to future persons further removed from us, especially in light of climate change. Her recent papers include “Putting Fairness in Its Place: Why There is a Duty to Take Up the Slack,” (Journal of Philosophy 2014) and “Asking Beneficiaries to Pay for Past Pollution, ”Climate Justice and Historical Emissions, ed. by Lukas Meyer and Pranay Sanklecha (CUP 2015).

For more information on the seminar series, go to the CFI website at For more information on ACEE, go to