Do climate experts have special moral responsibilities?

Wendy Parker, Science Studies Program, University of California at San Diego
March 31st, 2006, 4:00 to 5:30 pm
Ellis 024

Climate change is often portrayed as an issue that hinges on difficult scientific and technical questions. Its ethical dimensions, by contrast, rarely take center stage. In this talk, I will first review some of the complex ethical questions related to climate change that philosophers have recently begun to discuss. My primary focus, however, will be on a set of related questions that have received very little attention. These questions concern the moral responsibilities of climate experts. Are climate experts morally required, in virtue of their special knowledge, to take part in debates over climate policy? When, if ever, are climate experts obligated to communicate the results of their research to the public? Might it actually be wrong for climate experts to adhere to traditional norms of scientific communication, such as those requiring full disclosure of caveats and uncertainties, when speaking in public settings? In addition to addressing questions like these, I will consider what other people, including scientists themselves, have said about the moral responsibilities of climate experts.


wendy_parkerWendy Parker received her Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003. She spent the following academic year as a Congressional Science Fellow in the U.S. Senate, focusing on the issues of air pollution and climate change. Since then, she has held postdoctoral fellowships at Boston University and (currently) at the University of California, San Diego. She will join the faculty of the Philosophy Department at Ohio University this Fall.

Wendy’s research has primarily been concerned with the epistemology and methodology of computer simulation modeling. Her projects have addressed how computer simulations compare to traditional laboratory experiments, when computer simulation results should be trusted, and how computer simulation models help scientists to arrive at explanations of real-world phenomena. She is also interested in how science is used (and sometimes abused) in public policy debates. She has published papers on topics in philosophy of science, history of science, and atmospheric science.

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