What are the long-term consequences of decisions we make today, and to what extent should the interests of future generations be taken into account? There is a wide range of public policy challenges that require us to provide some sort of answer to these questions.
This interdisciplinary seminar series brings together academics and experts to address the implications of critical questions arising from ideas of intergenerational justice. Speakers will consider different areas of public policy and ethical debate, including climate change, sustainability and fiscal strategies for population ageing. Even with broad agreement that we should consider the interests of future generations in our collective decision-making, there is plenty of room for argument and debate about detailed application to different cases and circumstances.
Can Generations be Treated Equally?
Professor Asheim, Department of Economics, University of Oslo, gives a talk for the Oxford Martin School Hilary Term Seminar Series 2011 Intergenerational Justice: What do we owe future generations? Economists sometimes claim that generations cannot be treated equally. Some even argue that future generations must be given less weight than the present generation. Prof. Asheim will explain the basis for this claim and discuss ways in which it is still possible to balance present and future interests. In particular, new research within the field of social choice theory suggests ways to combine sensitivity to interests of the present with respect for the interests of the future. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Fiscal Policy, Fairness between Generations and National Saving
Dr Martin Weale, of the Bank of England Monetary Policy, gives a talk for the Oxford Martin School 2011 Hilary Term Seminar Series; Intergenerational Justice: What do we owe future generations? We assess fiscal policy from the perspective of fairness between generations and the relationship between this and national saving, in the context where the United Kingdom is one of the lowest saving of all the OECD economies. Cross-section and pooled data suggest that governments are in a position to influence national saving and we set out a simple overlapping generation model to show the effects of national debt, of pay-as-you-benefit systems, and of legacies and movements to land prices as means of effecting transfers between generations. Having shown that governments can influence the distribution of resources between generations we then discuss three notions of fairness between generations: (i) that each cohort should pay its own way; (ii) that a social planner should reallocate resources between generations to achieve an inter-temporal optimum; and (iii) that resources should be reallocated so that generations alive at the same time have similar living standards. In the light of these observations we discuss appropriate responses to a variety of economic shocks and we conclude with implications for policy in the aftermath of the recession. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Climate change investment - what is it worth for future generations?
The worthiness of a social investment project is a balance between the cost of the project, and the value of the benefits to society/ how long those benefits may apply. The term social discounting is often used by economists as a way of summarising this, and it's precise calculation is often an area of hot debate. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of investment designed to protect future generations against the negative effects of climate change. So, if we spend many millions to act against climate change now, will it be worth it to future generations? What effect might climate catastrophe have on these issues? Ben Groom will be presenting the most recent research in this field which attempts to inform climate change policy by balancing the consequences to and ethical treatment of current and future generations.
Demographic balance and human capital from an intergenerational perspective
Our world is demographically divided - some populations continue to grow rapidly, while others are already on a shrinking trajectory. But it is becoming increasingly important to understand how population structures are actually changing, not just increasing in size. Many populations have been ageing in an historically unprecedented way, and an acceleration of global population ageing is almost certain for the coming decades. At the same time, the educational achievement among the young is improving dramatically in many parts of the world. This implies that the future workforce will be better educated and, in the context of ageing, the higher productivity of workers may (over)compensate for their relatively smaller numbers. It also implies that the future elderly will be much better educated than today's elderly, with many consequences for their health and potential productivity. Professor Lutz's presentation will provide an opportunity to put this whole complex picture of changing global demographics into the context of our vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate change, as viewed from an intergenerational perspective. Delivered by Professor Wolfgang Lutz, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Vienna.
Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice: What are our obligations to future generations?
Climate change raises profound questions of intergenerational justice. It is widely recognized that there is a powerful case for mitigation in virtue of obligations we have to future generations. But how much mitigation is required? Is the widely held view that humanity should act so as to prevent anything higher than two degrees celsius increase in temperatures over pre-industrial temperatures an appropriate one? Should the upper limit be lower than that? How should we decide? Answers to this depend not simply on scientific and social scientific projections but also on assumptions about how much is owed to our contemporaries and how much is owed to future generations. Dr Caney will explore several ways of thinking about intergenerational justice that have been proposed by philosophers, economists and policymakers.
A legacy of dangers: Climate failure and future generations
The principles that ought to guide our one-way relations with future generations depend profoundly on the precise nature of what is being provided to or - in this case, inflicted on - them. Most discussions of intergenerational justice assume that some benefit is being provided to the future. In the case of the accelerating rate of climate change, we face a dilemma. Business-as-usual on our part will make the environment for future generations less hospitable to human enterprises, especially agriculture, than the environment is for us and has been for previous generations, leaving the situation worse than it is now and worse than it would need to be. On the other hand, rapid climate change can be stopped only if emissions of greenhouse gases in general, and carbon dioxide in particular, are limited. Any firm limit will make remaining cumulative emissions zero-sum, so that we will be competing with our own descendants for the limited remaining budget of allowed emissions. This dilemma gives responsibility to future generations a radically different shape in this case. Delivered by Professor Henry Shue, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/