Topics in Philosophy of Science: Climate Change: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Resilience

PHIL 525

Michael Weisberg

The ultimate objective of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is to stabilize greenhouse gases at a sufficiently low level and quickly enough to ensure that ecosystems “adapt naturally to climate change … food production is not threatened …[and that] economic development [can] proceed in a sustainable manner.” (Framework Convention on Climate Change, Article 2) Twenty three years after this convention was adopted, countries agreed to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty” by holding the Global Mean Temperature well-below 2 degrees (Paris Agreement, Article 2).

As part of this global goal, the Paris Agreement calls for increasing the “ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development”. While it is clear what is required to meet the first goal—rapidly decarbonize the economy and reach net-zero before mid-century—profound questions remain to be addressed to facilitate sufficient adaptation for people and natural systems.

This seminar is about this second goal of climate adaptation. There is essentially no philosophical literature about this topic, and, compared to the physical science and mitigation issues, comparatively little scholarly attention paid to this subject. We will work together in this seminar to begin building a philosophy of science literature on this topic that investigates the interfaces between physical and social science and the complex normative issues involved in climate adaptation actions. In addition to writing a standard seminar paper, students will be expected to work on a project that makes a substantial contribution to one or more of the intergovernmental climate processes.

Fall 2020