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GREAT BOOKS 23: The Morality of Climate Action, with Dale Jamieson

What kind of problem is Climate Change really?

Led by Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, a generation of young people are ready for swift and commensurate action on climate change. Are their parents and grandparents morally obligated to listen? Philosopher Dale Jamison explains the morality of fighting for our lives when we are not directly impacted.

In conversation with Uli Baer, Dale Jamieson details a new way of thinking about climate change. When leaders and activists call Climate Change an “existential threat” what does that in fact mean? Climate Change while rooted in science is first a political problem, a philosophical problem and at its core a moral problem.

Dale Jamieson is a professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy at NYU School of Law. Jamieson is not a scientist himself but early on he found himself surrounded by alarmed scientists; he says “falling in with climate modelers is like falling in with people who do Tai-Chi.” Convinced of the totality of climate change, Jamieson addresses the threat with the lens of a philosopher. Climate change is a recognition that rationalism is, in fact, not the guiding principle of international politics; it is both a threat and a contributor to our identity. Jamieson explores this in his newest book Discerning Experts.

In the quest to address Climate Change, Jamieson calls for moral solutions. It will be the job of storytellers and connectors to address the threat. “It’s a matter of sincerity” (39:46). In a world where irony is lauded, and value systems are chastised, how can we battle climate change? As Jamieson says “We are eventually going to die, but hopefully not from some stupidity we engage in” (44:57).