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Global Environmental Politics and Ethics


Preliminary course description

We are in the midst of unprecedented, anthropogenic climate change. Global warming is one of the most pressing global topics facing humans and nonhuman life today because of its actual, and potential for, widespread harm, and related issues of fairness. This course will focus on leading political and ethical issues related to global environmental challenges. How should international organizations, states, NGOs, and individuals address such global environmental challenges? We will consider a number of ways to conceptualize the problem of global warming and other environmental threats because they have implications for how to address the problems. The course will relate environmental challenges to central features and concepts of international relations, such as state sovereignty, international institutions, and human rights. We will consider how to assess the tradeoffs in global environmental governance, and who is likely to benefit and be harmed. Given that uncertainty and risk are essential elements of global environmental issues, we will examine why certain groups are put at elevated risk, including future generations, some indigenous communities, some developing countries, and some low lying communities. Scholars have presented alternative proposals for how the burdens of climate change mitigation and adaptation should be distributed, which we will evaluate. Additionally, we will examine whether existing institutions and modes of governing may contribute to ameliorating, or be inadequate for addressing, environmental threats.

Course objectives
Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
1. Understand some central political and ethical challenges of global warming.
2. Identify how key facets of international relations relate to global environmental challenges.
3. Understand the main ways leaders are have tried and are trying to address these challenges.
4. Understand various ways of categorizing risks of global warming to different groups of people and assess proposals for how to address them.
5. Write an original research paper addressing some aspect of a global environmental challenge.