Public hearing

Justice and Responsibility in the Face of Climate Change



Halting global warming and dealing with the consequences of climate change in a responsible manner is one of today’s great tasks of humanity. In the field of ethics, numerous questions of justice arise that concern relations of responsibility – within society as well as at the international and intergenerational level.

The German Ethics Council has just started its enquiry into the ethical aspects of the climate crisis. By involving external expertise in the form of a hearing at such an early stage, the Council pursues a dual purpose: For one thing, the Council members intend to assess early on the viability of certain ethical concepts related among others to the theory of justice. For another thing, the Ethics Council specifically consults experts from those branches of the social and economic sciences in which its members do not have in-depth knowledge. The Council wants to conduct its further deliberations on the topic of climate change against the multidisciplinary background provided by this hearing.

Among the questions the Ethics Council wishes to discuss with the experts are the following:

  • What is the basis of human responsibilities to take climate protection measures?
  • What takes priority, responsibility towards other human beings or responsibility towards nature?
  • Is there a duty to change one’s lifestyle in possibly radical ways for the benefit of climate protection, even if this individual action does not have a positive effect on the handling of climate change (because others do not act in the same way)?
  • How does climate change impact on existing global injustice and how can the burdens of combating climate change be fairly distributed (e.g. burden sharing according to historical cumulative greenhouse gas emissions or according to the contribution to current population growth)?
  • Is there a need for global governance to address climate change and, if so, what could it look like?

Please switch to the German version of this website for more information on the programme.