Ethical Choices and Global Greenhouse Warming
58 pages
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58 pages
English

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Description

There are many things we can choose to do about climate change, including doing nothing at all. All of them have consequences, many of which will be unforeseen. If we could foretell more accurately what would happen to the climate in the future, our choices might be clearer, if not necessarily easier to make. Unfortunately, predicting future climate change is fraught with uncertainty, and we will be forced to make choices in the face of that uncertainty. To what extent are we motivated in this difficult process by a desire to do the “right thing”? And how do we decide what is the right thing to do? The answer to these questions depends on whose ethical interests are considered.

What is best for a Canadian living in the last decade of the twentieth century—even supposing we could discover what that is—might not be best for a Somali, or for our great-grandchildren, or for the rain forest of the Amazon or the kangaroos of Australia. Decisions about what to do about global warming will therefore be influenced by how much relative weight we give to the ethical interests of Canadians, Somalis, grandchildren, rain forests, kangaroos and a host of other variables. Weighing these competing interests is an exercise in applied ethics. This book examines the role that ethics can and should play in our decisions about how to deal with global warming.


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Publié par
Date de parution 30 octobre 2010
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781554586714
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0037€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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ETHICAL CHOICES AND GLOBAL GREENHOUSE WARMING
ETHICAL CHOICES
AND
GLOBAL
GREENHOUSE
WARMING
Lydia Dotto
Based on the study Ethics and Climate Change: The Greenhouse Effect sponsored by The Calgary Institute for the Humanities
Published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press for The Calgary Institute for the Humanities
Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data
Dotto, Lydia, 1949- Ethical choices and global greenhouse warming
Based on the study: Ethics and climate change : the greenhouse effect. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-88920-234-6
1. Global warming - Decision making - Moral and ethical aspects. 2. Greenhouse effect, Atmospheric Decision making - Moral and ethical aspects. I. Calgary Institute for the Humanities. II. Title. III. Title: Ethics and climate change : the greenhouse effect.
QC981.8.G56D6 1993 179 .1 C93-094494-1
Copyright 1993 Wilfrid Laurier University Press Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5
Cover design by Connolly Design Inc.

Printed in Canada
Ethical Choices and Global Greenhouse Warming has been produced from a manuscript supplied in camera-ready form by The Calgary Institute for the Humanities.
All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means-graphic, electronic or mechanical-without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any request for photocopying, recording, taping or reproducing in information storage and retrieval systems of any part of this book shall be directed in writing to the Canadian Reprography Collective, 379 Adelaide Street West, Suite Ml, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 1S5.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgement
Author s Note
Summary of Findings and Conclusions
An Overview
SECTION 1 ETHICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
I. The Nature of the Climate Challenge
II. Ethics and the Environment
III. The Role of Religion
SECTION 2 ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES
I. Governmental and International Responsibility
II. Corporate Responsibility
III. Personal Responsibility
SECTION 3 MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
I. Economic Mechanisms
II. Energy Efficiency
Conclusion
Reading List
Index
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This volume, which has been written for public policy decision-makers, corporate executives, non-governmental organizations and the public, has a companion volume, Ethics and Climate Change: The Greenhouse Effect, edited by Harold Coward and Thomas Hurka and also published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, that contains the full academic results of a three-year research network.
Thanks are due to Gerry Dyer, the administrator of the Calgary Institute for the Humanities, for preparing camera-ready copy for this volume, and to Maura Brown, managing editor of Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
Finally, the author gratefully acknowledges the financial support received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Shell Canada and the Canadian Petroleum Association. This publication was made possible by their generous contributions.
AUTHOR S NOTE
This book is based on the study Ethics and Climate Change: The Greenhouse Effect sponsored by the Calgary Institute for the Humanities. Its contents are derived from the chapters of the technical volume, prepared by a group of researchers who are identified on pp. 171-73 of that volume. I would like to thank each of them for assisting me in preparing this non-specialist version of the study, and I hope I have succeeded in capturing the essence of their arguments. However, responsibility for the contents of this book rests with me and with its editors.
I would also like to thank Harold Coward, former director of the Calgary Institute for the Humanities and now director of the University of Victoria s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, who was responsible for my participation in this project.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
SECTION 1. ETHICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
I. The Nature of the Climate Challenge
Global warming is occurring now and it will intensify.
Increases in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases from human activities contribute to global warming.
There are large uncertainties regarding the present and future environmental impact of global warming and its social and economic consequences.
Even the smallest predicted consequences will cause considerable distress, and calamitous consequences cannot be ruled out. Therefore, a strategy of better safe than sorry is prudent.
The spectrum of possible actions ranges from avoidance (measures to curtail greenhouse gas emissions) to adaptation (measures to cope with the consequences of climate warming).
A mix of strategies will be employed, but choosing from among the options involves complex choices. Ethical considerations can play a role in helping us make those choices.
II. Ethics and the Environment
The ethical nature of various strategies of avoidance and adaptation can be assessed by examining their consequences for different groups: (1) humans here and now; (2) humans now and everywhere; (3) humans everywhere at all times; (4) plants, animals and all of nature valued for their own sake.
Considering the ethical standing only of humans who are now living may lead us to choose strategies of adaptation. However, if the interests of future generations, other species and the natural environment are considered, ethical considerations push us increasingly in the direction of strategies to avoid climate warming.
A central ethical dilemma stems from a potential conflict between the interests of humans now living in developing countries and those of future generations. Avoidance strategies would benefit future generations, but could harm those now living in developing countries by slowing industrialization that would raise their standard of living. One solution commonly proposed - that developed countries bear a greater burden for reducing greenhouse gas emissions - could entail huge costs that developed countries may not accept.
Strategies to deal with climate warming may be constrained by rights (e.g., the right to life and the right to own property). It may be ethically necessary to compensate those harmed by climate policies, and some strategies that would violate fundamental rights may not be ethical even if they achieve overall good consequences.
III. The Role of Religion
Religious beliefs influence individual ethical behaviour; therefore, understanding the position of the major religions on environmental issues may help in the effort to promote environmentally responsible behaviour.
All major religions view nature as having intrinsic value beyond its usefulness to humans.
Western religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are more human-centred than Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism), but they do not give humans licence to use the environment for selfish purposes. Rather, they advocate responsible stewardship of nature.
Eastern religions place greater emphasis on the interdependence of humans and nature. Nevertheless, environmental problems have occurred in countries where these religions dominate.
SECTION 2. ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES
The atmosphere is an open access resource -everyone uses it, but no one owns it.
Governments, corporations and individuals all have an ethical duty to deal with the problem of global warming, but there is considerable debate about their appropriate roles.
It may be unwise to rely entirely on governments, international organizations and other large institutions to solve the problem of global warming.
Economic measures, market forces and voluntary actions by individuals have been proposed as alternative mechanisms, but there are questions as to whether they can be any more effective than coercive government measures.
I. Government and International Responsibility
Under customary international law, there is no legal liability for environmental harm caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Nor is there an obligation to pay compensation for such harm, or an incentive to reduce emissions. Therefore international conventions have been developed to address large-scale environmental problems.
The 1992 convention on climate change acknowledges the interests of developing countries and future generations and calls for developed countries to take primary responsibility for finding solutions. But it is weak in commitments for action and it does not change the legal status of the atmosphere from an open access resource to a shared limited resource.
If the atmosphere were to be treated as a shared limited resource, a controversial question arises as to how to allocate rights to its use as a disposal site for greenhouse gases.
A system based on per capita population would give huge allocations to populous developing countries and reduce the allocation of developed countries below their current usage. A system of trading allocations could provide an effective means of transferring wealth to developing countries and helping them increase efficient use of energy.
A more politically realistic allocation system would balance factors such as population with current per capita usage of the atmosphere for disposing of greenhouse gases. It would also give countries credit for efforts already made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
II. Corporate Responsibility
The old model of corporate responsibility is based on a narrow definition of duty - making profits for shareholders. This has resulted in secretive and adversarial methods of dealing with opposition and a

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