The Social and Legal Aspects of Climate Change
Edited by Anna Grear and Conor Gearty
Chapter 6: Directional climate justice: the normative relationship between moral claim rights and directed obligations
A prominent theoretical analysis of moral claim rights holds that a right exists if and only if a corresponding directed obligation exists. Unfortunately, that traditional analysis has significant problems with a large number of apparent rights, including rights related to climate change. Many theorists take this limitation to be sufficient grounds to reject this traditional analysis, but eliminating the link between rights and directed obligations risks losing the essential, directional aspect of such rights. This theoretical impasse can be resolved by recognizing that the link between moral claim rights and directed obligations is normative rather than descriptive: a moral claim right ought to engender directed obligations, but it need not actually do so in order to be properly analysed as a right. Recognizing the normative link between rights and obligations not only solves a theoretical riddle, but also uncovers several practical consequences for our ethical understanding of climate change.
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