Dissertation Defense: Colin Hickey

Candidate Name: Colin Hickey

Major: Philosophy

Dissertation Co-Advisors: Margaret Olivia Little, Ph.D., Madison Powers, D.Phil

Title: Global Climate Justice and Individual Duties

In this dissertation I develop an account of the morality of climate change. As a moral problem that is a function of the aggregation of many seemingly innocuous individual actions, climate change is in significant tension with the traditional model of individual responsibility. In response to this tension, and in light of the struggles of alternative strategies, I suggest that the most promising way forward is to pursue a particular kind of theory of global distributive justice, which frames climate change as a moral problem regarding the overuse of a scarce, valuable, rival, non-excludable global resource that no one owns, the earth’s atmospheric absorptive capacity (AAC). Such an approach is uniquely suited to accomplish a number of important tasks of an adequate theory of climate morality in a unified way; namely, it can recognize the importance of collective institutions, capture the distribution of collective institutional responsibility, and explain pre-institutional responsibilities and their relationship to collective institutional responsibility. After clearing the groundwork for such a theory of global distributive justice I begin to fill it out by arguing that individuals are, pre-institutionally, bound as a matter of global distributive justice to restrict their use, or benefit from the use, of AAC to within a specified justifiable range and that this serves as the normative basis for what distributively just global institutions to govern climate change would look like in allocating access to that resource and its benefits. I further defend an account of the individual duty to participate in the creation of just climate institutions, what I also refer to as the duty to collectivize.

Monday, September 11, 2017 at 4:00pm to 6:00pm

New North, 204
37th and O St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events, Dissertation Defense


Georgetown College, Philosophy, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences



Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Carina Olsson

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