Praefectus' Seminars

The Praefectus's Seminars have been a feature of Manor life for over 30 years – and over that time they have hosted a glittering array of extremely distinguished speakers. This is one of Balliol's flagship intellectual events, and all graduates are very warmly invited to come. They are held termly.

Michaelmas Term 2015

Monday 2 November at 8:00pm in the MCR (drinks at 7:30pm in the Study)

Dr. Daniel Butt, Balliol College

Piers Gaveston, Minority Report, and Historic Carbon Emissions: Does it Matter Who Knew What When?

This paper addresses a specific issue in relation to the question of who should pay the costs of mitigation, adaptation, and compensation stemming from anthropogenic climate change. It is concerned with the claim that it is in some way inappropriate to make members of current day states pay for the historic greenhouse gas emissions [GHGs] of their counterparts on account of the fact that those historic counterparts were not aware of the harm to which their actions would give rise in the future. I argue that while it is correct to believe that ignorance is a defence against the charge of moral wrongdoing, absent a justified charge of culpable negligence, it is nonetheless appropriate to hold those relevantly connected to historic actions which would have been wrongful if performed in knowledge of their consequences liable for the costs of those consequences when a specific condition is fulfilled: namely, that we are convinced that they would have acted as they did even if they had, in fact, been aware of the consequences of their actions. The particular character of human history, particularly in relation to international affairs, means that such a condition is indeed fulfilled in the case of historic emissions.