A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change

A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change

A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change

A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change


Climate change is arguably the great problem confronting humanity, but we have done little to head off this looming catastrophe. In The Perfect Moral Storm, philosopher Stephen Gardiner illuminates our dangerous inaction by placing the environmental crisis in an entirely new light, considering it as an ethical failure. Gardiner clarifies the moral situation, identifying the temptations (or "storms") that make us vulnerable to a certain kind of corruption. First, the world's most affluent nations are tempted to pass on the cost of climate change to the poorer and weaker citizens of the world. Second, the present generation is tempted to pass the problem on to future generations. Third, our poor grasp of science, international justice, and the human relationship to nature helps to facilitate inaction. As a result, we are engaging in willful self-deception when the lives of future generations, the world's poor, and even the basic fabric of life on the planet is at stake. We should wake up to this profound ethical failure, Gardiner concludes, and demand more of our institutions, our leaders and ourselves.


Those of us working on global ethics and political philosophy tend to think about grand theories of justice and rights, trying to figure out which are the best, how they apply to the world that we live in, and how they might guide us in making it better. However, this is not that kind of book. Instead, my aim is to characterize our predicament—humanity’s and especially that of richer nations and peoples. This seems to me where the action is right now. We need to understand what the problem is that we are trying to solve, and why it is so persistent. Until we do, attempts at solutions are likely to be shallow.

In the hope of piquing your interest, let me gesture at the main claims of the book by announcing eight propositions.


We are currently accelerating hard into the most serious global environmental problem that humanity has ever faced. If the scientists are to be believed, the planet is at serious risk of a shift in global climate comparable in magnitude to an ice age (albeit in the other direction), but occurring over decades rather than millennia. Yet, despite more than twenty years of awareness, we are neither slowing down nor stabilizing, let alone actually reducing, our collective input to the problem. Instead, we continue to add more fuel to the fire, faster and faster, producing an almost exponential rise in anthropogenic emissions of carbon. This, arguably, is the most striking fact of our time.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.