Solutions to climate change have been academically criticized for their continued economic growth, managerialism and lack of real politics. In comparison, the IPCC's socio-economic assessments of climate change have accentuated the ethical implications of their own policy recommendations. Our analysis of ten IPCC reports (1990–2012) shows a turn from a claimed non-political position in human-induced climate change to an outspoken ethical position in climate-induced disasters. We argue that a professionalization of climate ethics is sought through ecological reason, specifically by calls for resilience to foster adaptable subjects. This neoliberal position leans on a problematization of vulnerable subjects' resistance to social adaptation, underpinned by an aim to redirect resistance towards physical disasters to stimulate climate adaptation. Conclusively, climate ethical mastery is formed by detailed elaborations of how the vulnerable subject should not only subsume to ecological reason, but also ethically embrace physical threats and dangers as if productive of life supportive qualities. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.