AID – Agora for Interdisciplinary Debate

“Integrating ethics and economics in climate policy assessment”

Discussed by:
Professor John Broome (Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford)
Professor John O’Neill (Political Economy, University of Manchester)
Professor Matti Liski (Economics, Aalto University)
Moderated by Academy Professor Uskali Mäki

TIME: Tuesday 11 November 2014, 16-18
Place: Metsätalo/Forest Building, Unioninkatu 40, room 6, 3rd floor

AID is the forum for interdisciplinary conversation coordinated by the Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. For the very idea and the programme, check

TOPIC of the session:
The debates around climate change have renewed the interest in the relation between ethics and economics. The most recent indication of this is the Working Group III report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which takes the ethical foundations of climate mitigation policies explicitly into consideration. For the first time, influential climate ethicists were invited to be among the authors of the report. The aim was to connect the economic evaluation of climate policies to the discussion of the ethical issues. While recognising the role of economics in climate policy choices, the IPCC report stresses the limits of economics in addressing some ethical values and considerations of justice that cannot be easily monetized. The report also emphasises how economic methods – even when monetizing is possible – implicitly involve significant ethical assumptions. This debate brings together scholars from moral philosophy and economics to discuss the interrelation between climate ethics and economics in climate policy assessment.

The QUESTIONS the debate will address include the following:

A. What are the most important ethical issues of climate change and how should we address them in the policy assessment?

– Is it possible to make economic analyses to support policymaking without making ethical judgments?
– How far can and should economists integrate ethical considerations into their analyses, given the relevant disciplinary constraints of economics?
– What are the most serious barriers to integration of ethics and economics in climate policy assessment?

B. Economics is concerned about efficiency and optimal use of resources, whereas ethics includes also issues of justice and responsibility – what does this imply?

– How far can issues of efficiency and issues of justice be addressed together – in smooth coordination with one another – in climate policy assessment?
– How should questions related to distribution between generations be reflected in policy assessment?
– How should one address the uncertainty concerning the future impacts of climate policies and particularly the risk of catastrophic climate change?


– IPCC Working Group III Contribution to AR5, Chapter 3 “Social, Economic and Ethical Concepts and Methods”
– John Broome (2008): “The Ethics of Climate Change”, Scientific American, June 2008
– John Broome (2010): “The most important thing about climate change”, in Public Policy: Why Ethics Matters, (eds.) Jonathan Boston, Andrew Bradstock and David Eng (ANU E Press)
– John O’Neill & Martin O’Neill (2012): Social Justice and the Future of Flood Insurance
– Matti Liski with Reyer Gerlag (2014): ”Carbon prices for the next hundred years”
– Matti Liski (2008): “Sternin raportti ja sen kritiikki”, Kansantaloudellinen aikakauskirja – 104.vsk
– John Broome (2012): Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World (New York: W. W. Norton)
– John O’Neill (2007): Markets, Deliberation and Environment (Routledge)

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