SOAS University of London

Department of Economics

Efficiency and Future Generations

John Broome
John Broome (University of Oxford)

Date: 11 October 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 11 October 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Alumni Lecture Theatre (ALT)

Type of Event: Seminar


It is possible to respond to climate change in a way that requires no sacrifice from anyone. At least, that is the conclusion of the standard economic theory of externalities. In particular, the present generation need not make a sacrifice for the sake of future generations. In negotiating policy for climate change, the international community can therefore appeal to people's self interest rather than their morality.

However, this important conclusion is subject to doubt, because the standard theory of externalities does not apply accurately to intergenerational externalities. It relies on a notion of efficiency that fails for policies that affect the identities and numbers of people in future generations, as climate policies do.  I am to repair the damage to the theory, and preserve its conclusion as far as possible. 

Speaker biography:

Emeritus White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford, Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University and Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University. Works on normativity, rationality and reasoning, and also on the ethics of climate change. Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Organiser: Dr Gregor Semieniuk

Contact email:

Contact Tel: 020 7898 4219