Choosing a Future
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Choosing a Future

The Social and Legal Aspects of Climate Change

Edited by Anna Grear and Conor Gearty

The issue is no longer whether climate change is happening; it is rather what we should now be doing about it. Drawing together key thinkers and policy experts, this unique volume – also a Special Issue of the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment - engages with the human dimensions of climate change, offering a timely intervention into contemporary debates about the challenging relationship between law and society in a time of climate crisis. The result is an imaginative, well-informed and provocative collection of contemporary engagements with the greatest challenge of the age, concerned not only to understand the current crisis but to offer perspectives on how it can be addressed. At the heart of this volume is the conviction that change is urgent, possible and morally imperative.
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Chapter 6: Directional climate justice: the normative relationship between moral claim rights and directed obligations

Marcus Hedahl


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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