Not available in 2013/14
The Philosophy and Politics of Environmental Change

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christian List CYBER and Dr Kai Spiekermann CON5.17


This course is available on the MPA in European Public and Economic Policy, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change and MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course analyses political and philosophical questions arising in the context of environmental change. The approach will be interdisciplinary, and the course will engage with normative-philosophical, positive-analytical and empirical work, drawing on methodologies from political science, philosophy, economics and the natural sciences. Among the topics discussed will be climate change, overpopulation, food and water scarcity, deforestation, desertification and the loss of biodiversity. The course will address dilemmas of co-operation such as the 'tragedy of the commons', public-goods and collective-action problems, group decision making, markets for emission certificates, problems of compliance and enforcement, the role of social norms, intergenerational justice and discounting, global and environmental justice, cost-benefit analysis, decisions under uncertainty, the precautionary principle, the analysis of complex systems, and the role of the natural sciences in policy formulation.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

One formative essay (2,000 words) and one formally developed presentation per term.

Indicative reading

John Broome (2004), Weighing Lives, Oxford: OUP; Partha Dasgupta (2001), Human Well-Being and the Natural Environment, Oxford: OUP; Avner de-Shalit (2000), The Environment: Between Theory and Practice, Oxford: OUP; Dieter Helm and Cameron Hepburn, eds. (2009), The Economics and Politics of Climate Change, Oxford: OUP; Bjorn Lomborg (2001), The Sceptical Environmentalist: Measuring the State of the World, Cambridge: CUP; Willam Nordhaus (2008), A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies, New Haven: Yale University Press; Elinor Ostrom et al., eds. (2002), The Drama of the Commons, Washington: National Academy Press; Nicholas Stern et al. (2007), The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, Cambridge: CUP; Steve Vanderheiden (2008), Atmospheric Justice: A Political Theory of Climate Change, New York: OUP.


Essay (50%, 2500 words) and essay (50%, 2500 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2012/13: 9

Average class size 2012/13: 9

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 85.4%



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