Environmental Ethics and Climate Change - PHIL6666

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


This module introduces students to key issues in environmental ethics, the study of (a) the ethical relations and commitments of humans towards the non-human world, (b) the ethical standing of the non-human world itself, relating this study to the applied case of manmade climate change. The course is divided into a theoretical and a practical part. The theoretical part focuses on the conceptions of the environment in various traditions, and on the main theories of ethics, value, rights and duties. The practical part looks at applications of these theories, investigating the existing ethical approaches to the environment, before looking in more detail at the challenges of environmental destruction and manmade climate change.
Some questions which may be addressed: What are the main ethical theories? What are values, and do they even exist? What is the difference between positivist and natural right theories? What exactly is the environment/nature? Are humans part of nature or something else? Has something gone wrong in our relation to nature? Is all life sacred? To whom does the Earth belong? What has axiological priority – humans or the Earth (Gaia)? Do only humans have an intrinsic value or basic rights, or do such normative concepts also apply beyond humans? Can the paradoxes of collective action be overcome? What are the main ethical approaches to the environment? What are public goods, and in what relation do they stand to the planetary boundaries? Whose duty is it to prevent global warming? What is more important, preventing global warming or establishing social-economic justice? Through which political system can sustainability be best achieved? Who is to bear the costs of climate change? How might victims of climate displacement be compensated? What theory of justice is required to answer such questions? Do we owe anything to yet unborn humans? What do we owe to animals and plants, if anything? If it is too late to prevent the extinction of our species, what remains to be done?


Contact hours

Private Study: 270
Contact Hours: 30
Total: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Final essay, 3,000 words 70%
Seminar participation 20%
Weekly summary, 300 words 10%

Reassessment methods
100% coursework (2,500 words essay)

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.
The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages: https://kent.rl.talis.com/index.html

Indicative list, current at time of publication:

DesJardins, J. (2005), Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy, Boston: Wadworth
Gardiner, S., Thompson, A. (eds.) (2019), Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Gardiner, A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, 2013
Hansen, J. (2009), Storms of My Grandchildren, Bloomsbury: London
Jamieson, Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed - and What It Means for Our Future, 2014
Light, A., Rolston III, H. (eds.) (2012), Environmental Ethics: An Anthology, Malden: Blackwell
Naess, Ecology, Community and Lifestyle, 1989
Passmore, Man's Responsibility for Nature, 1974
Singer, Practical Ethics, 2011
Singer, One World Now: The Ethics of Globalization, 2016

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Articulate the main issues and arguments addressed in the set reading;
2 Critically discuss the main issues and arguments addressed in the set reading;
3 Show understanding of the main theories in ethics, legal and political philosophy, and how they are relevant to the discussion of the main issues addressed in the set reading;
4 Demonstrate basic knowledge of the problems of environmental destruction and manmade climate change;
5 Critically discuss philosophical responses to the problem of manmade climate change.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their skills in critical analysis and argument through both through their reading and through listening to others;
2 Demonstrate their ability to make complex ideas clearly understandable in their philosophical writing;
3 Demonstrate their ability to make complex ideas clearly understandable in their communication;
4 Demonstrate their ability to work autonomously and to take responsibility for their learning.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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