Ethics

The essays in Part 4 raise issues in moral philosophy. Dale Jamieson (Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at New York University) traces the route that has led governments to give up significantly mitigating climate change and instead embrace a de facto policy of adaptation only. Adaptations can be conscious or unconscious, anticipatory or reactive. Some are clumsy, inefficient, inequitable, and inadequate. Still, according to Jamieson, it is inevitable that some strategies of adaptation will and should be adopted. Nonetheless, adaptation should not replace mitigation, because adaptation without mitigation creates serious practical and moral risks. One major practical risk involves catastrophic climatic surprises that happen too quickly or widely for adequate adaptation. The main moral risk is that a policy of adaptation without mitigation makes the polluted pay when it seems only fair for the polluter to pay. Adaptation-only strategies also make the poorest suffer more than the wealthy. To avoid such moral costs, Jam-ieson argues, wealthy countries must accept a transnational duty to mitigate climate change as well as to help poor countries adapt to the climate change that is already inevitable. Jamieson outlines a particular "modest proposal'' for mitigating climate change in a way that is both fair and efficient. His proposal allows a market in permits to emit greenhouse gases but allocates those permits initially on a per capita basis. Jamieson's proposal places heavy duties across national borders, so he closes by defending his cosmopolitan moral perspective against skeptics who would deny that any transnational duties justify or motivate action. Those who try to evade such duties, Jamieson concludes, "may one day be called to account.''

Julia Driver (Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth College) next explains why inaction (especially by the United States) cannot be justified either by failures of others to do their duties or by imperfections in international agreements. Driver argues that policy regarding global warming seems to be made on the basis of unrealistic, or idealized, assumptions. This has the effect of producing outcomes that are much worse overall. As an example she discusses the Kyoto Protocol, noting that Bush administration did not accept it for a variety of reasons (some of which may have been good ones), one of which had to do with making the mistake of holding out for ideal circumstances. Specifically, the Bush administration refused to sign on unless other countries made a similar agreement - that is, the Bush administration would not agree to comply with Kyoto unless others in the developing world (where the cost of compliance would arguably be higher) did so. Driver's argument is that, though we can agree that universal compliance is best, the United States still has an obligation to help alleviate the global warming problem even absent such compliance on the part of other nations.

Whereas others focus on mitigation and adaptation, Henry Shue (Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford) introduces another proposal: replacement. He argues that standard mitigation policies cannot solve the real problem of global warming, since no allocation of greenhouse gas emissions is both morally tolerable and politically feasible, as long as most economies are dependent for energy on carbon-based fuels. Hence, we have political as well as moral reasons to search aggressively for alternative sources of energy. The main moral reason is to avoid the high costs of postponing "the date of technological transition,'' which is the year in human history when the accumulated atmospheric total of all greenhouse gases ceases to grow. The longer it takes to make the technological transition, the more carbon dioxide will have been emitted into the atmosphere and the more severe and destructive will be the climatic changes. Later technological transition also increases the risk of abrupt climate reversals and the number of species that will be driven to extinction. To reduce such dangers, Shue claims that we have a moral responsibility to bring about the technological transition as soon as is feasible. "To delay'', Shue says, "is to play with fire (and ice).'' It is not just that we fail to give a gift to future generations but that we make their world worse. To prevent such immoral failure, we need to work soon, hard, and fast on alternatives to fossil fuels. We need to do for non-fossil fuels what the

Manhattan Project did for the atomic bomb. If the federal government stalls, then local governments, universities, and the private sector need to provide the initiative and vision absent from Washington.

Finally, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth College) closes by asking whether individuals have moral obligations to fight global warming in their personal lives. He focuses on a case of wasteful driving on a particular occasion and surveys many principles from a variety of moral theories, which focus on actual consequences of individual and group actions, on what would happen if everyone did it or were allowed to do it, and on virtues, intentions, and laws. Sinnott-Armstrong concludes that none of these principles is strong enough to yield an obligation not to drive wastefully on a particular occasion without becoming too strong to be plausible. He suggests that this conclusion should not be disturbing to environmentalists, because, even if individuals have no moral obligation not to drive wastefully, it can still be morally ideal and virtuous to avoid wasteful driving, it can still be legitimate to criticize individuals who drive wastefully too often, and, most important, governments can still have moral obligations to fight global warming, even by passing laws against certain kinds of wasteful driving.

These essays jointly suggest that global warming is a real problem, and we can and should take many steps to reduce its severity and impact. What will actually be done remains to be seen and will affect the lives of all humans for a long time.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment