Monday 9 May 2016



We have covered many topics at Wychwood Circle, from atheism to antropology, from compassion to cosmology, and from poetry to politics, but it wouldn’t do for an outward-looking group like ours, open to discussing almost anything with anybody, to neglect one of the biggest issues of our time.  With the promising Paris talks on climate change in December and almost monthly reports of record temperatures or unprecedented weather conditions, it was high time to turn to the big one: what is our responsibility to our environment, both as individuals and as citizens? In other words, just what are the Ethics of Climate Change? 

We are fortunate indeed to have Professor John Broome join us on June 5th.  Until last year he was White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford and he wrote a fascinating if disturbing article in the faculty magazine (Oxford Philosophy 2014 - scroll to pp 8-11).  John Broome spent several years as Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and in this piece – entitled CLIMATE CHANGE IS A MORAL PROBLEM – he recounts in detail the long process of producing an internationally acceptable Assessment Report for the UN.  It soon becomes clear that climate change is a political and diplomatic problem too. 
You cannot of course avoid the economics of climate change – what a boon for the PPE-ers of this world! – and John Broome knows all about that too.  In his very readable 2012 book,  CLIMATE MATTERS: ETHICS IN A WARMING WORLD there is a chapter on Economics (externalities, inefficiency, waste) as well as one on Justice and Fairness and – beware of being challenged about your lifestyle and not just your politics! – one on Private Morality.  The Amazon blurb reads as follows:

Esteemed philosopher John Broome avoids the familiar ideological stances on climate change policy and examines the issue through an invigorating new lens. As he considers the moral dimensions of climate change, he reasons clearly through what universal standards of goodness and justice require of us, both as citizens and as governments. His conclusions-some as demanding as they are logical-will challenge and enlighten. Eco-conscious readers may be surprised to hear they have a duty to offset all their carbon emissions, while policy makers will grapple with Broome's analysis of what if anything is owed to future generations. From the science of greenhouse gases to the intricate logic of cap and trade, Broome reveals how the principles that underlie everyday decision making also provide simple and effective ideas for confronting climate change. Climate Matters is an essential contribution to one of the paramount issues of our time.

Most of our events at Wychwood Circle this season have had at least some reference to faith – even on Mindfulness someone wondered if Jesus was ‘mindful’ – and it would be hard to uncouple belief in our environment from a spiritual outlook, if not a religious one.  However, it is worth saying that we have invited Professor Broome with no idea whatsoever of his faith position, if any.  Climate matters: John Broome wrote the book.  He’s an Oxford philosopher, a world authority, and was good enough to accept our invitation.  We look forward to being stimulated by his talk. 

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