Climate ethics

Climate ethics

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Encyclopedia
Climate Ethics is a new and growing area of research that focuses on the ethical dimensions of climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

, and concepts such as climate justice
Climate justice
Climate Justice is generally used as a term for viewing climate change as an ethical issue and considering how its causes and effects relate to concepts of justice, particularly social justice and environmental justice. For example examining issues such as equality, human rights and historical...

.

Human-induced climate change raises many profound ethical questions, yet many believe that these ethical issues have not been addressed adequately in climate change policy debates or in the scientific and economic literature on climate change; and that, consequently, ethical questions are being overlooked or obscured in climate negotiations, policies and discussions . It has been pointed out that those most responsible for climate change are not the same people as those most vulnerable to its effects.

Terms such as climate justice
Climate justice
Climate Justice is generally used as a term for viewing climate change as an ethical issue and considering how its causes and effects relate to concepts of justice, particularly social justice and environmental justice. For example examining issues such as equality, human rights and historical...

 and ecological justice ('eco justice') are used worldwide, and have been adopted by various groups.

Overview


An article in the scientific journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

(Patz, 2005) concluded that the human-induced warming that the world is now experiencing is already causing 150,000 deaths and 5 million incidents of disease each year from additional malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and diarrhea
Diarrhea
Diarrhea , also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day. It is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and...

, mostly in the poorest nations. Death and disease incidents are likely to soar as warming increases. Facts such as this demonstrate that climate change is compromising rights to life, liberty and personal security. Hence, ethical analysis of climate change policy must examine how that policy impacts on those basic rights.

The rights to life, liberty, and personal security are basic human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 that are the foundation for deriving other widely recognized rights found in international law and practice. These rights, for example, have been the basis for such practical rules as the “no harm principle” and the “precautionary principle
Precautionary principle
The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those...

.” These rights are recognized in a number of international treaties and decisions in international tribunals, and are widely recognized as foundational by many of the world’s religions. These rights are also expressly set out in Article Three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 which expressly provides that:
  • Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and personal security.

  • Humans have rights to life, liberty, and personal security that create duties in others to refrain from interference with these basic rights. In this paper we seek to help clarify our duties to prevent the neglect or violation of those rights. Of course, climate change policy making raises additional ethical issues including questions about duties to protect future generations of humans, plants, animals, and ecosystems.


Climate change raises a number of particularly challenging ethical issues about distributive justice
Distributive justice
Distributive justice concerns what some consider to be socially just allocation of goods in a society. A society in which incidental inequalities in outcome do not arise would be considered a society guided by the principles of distributive justice...

, in particular concerning how to fairly share the benefits and burdens of climate change policy options. Many of the policy tools often employed to solve environmental problems such as cost-benefit analysis
Cost-benefit analysis
Cost–benefit analysis , sometimes called benefit–cost analysis , is a systematic process for calculating and comparing benefits and costs of a project for two purposes: to determine if it is a sound investment , to see how it compares with alternate projects...

 usually do not adequately deal with these issues because they often ignore questions of just distribution.

The Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change


In December 2004 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change was launched at the 10th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992...

. The major outcome of this meeting was the Buenos Aires Declaration on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change.

Objectives


The program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change seeks to:
  • Facilitate express examination of ethical dimensions of climate change particularly for those issues entailed by specific positions taken by governments, businesses, NGOs, organizations, or individuals on climate change policy matters;
  • Create better understanding about the ethical dimensions of climate change among policy makers and the general public;
  • Assure that people around the world, including those most vulnerable to climate change, participate in any ethical inquiry about responses to climate change;
  • Develop an interdisciplinary approach to inquiry about the ethical dimensions of climate change and support publications that examine the ethical dimensions of climate change;
  • Make the results of scholarship on the ethical dimensions of climate change available to and accessible to policy makers, scientists, and citizen groups;
  • Integrate ethical analysis into the work of other institutions engaged in climate change policy including the Intergovernmental Program on Climate Change and the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Position


Given the severity of impact to be expected and given the likelihood that some level of important disruptions in living conditions will occur for great numbers of people due to climate change events, this group contends that there is sufficient convergence among ethical principles to make a number of concrete recommendations on how governments should act, or identify ethical problems with positions taken by certain governments, organizations, or individuals.

Facts about climate change and fundamental human rights provide the starting point for climate ethics.

Members


Members of the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change program include:

Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State University
Secretariat
  • Penn State Institutes of the Environment
  • Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy
  • Brazilian Forum on Climate Change
  • Center for Ethics, University of Montana
  • Centre for Applied Ethics, Cardiff University
  • Centre for Global Ethics, Birmingham University
  • Coordination of Post Graduate Programs in Engineering of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro–The Energy Planning Program
  • EcoEquity
  • Global Ecological Integrity Group
  • International Virtual Institute on Global Changes
  • IUCN Environmental Law Commission–Ethics Specialist Group
  • Munasinghe Institute for Development
  • New Directions: Science, Humanities, Policy
  • Oxford Climate Policy
  • Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds
  • Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Activism


In June 2009 prominent anti-mining activist Marcelo Rivera Moreno was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Cabañas. In December 2009 two more activists (Ramiro Rivera Gomez on December 20 and Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto on December 26) that oppose the activities of the Pacific Rim Mining Corporation
Pacific Rim Mining Corporation
The Pacific Rim Mining Corporation is a Vancouver, Canada-based multinational mining company that works throughout the Americas. It merged with Dayton Mining Corporation in 2002....

 in their home region were killed. Dora Sorto was eight months pregnant when she was shot dead, and her two year old son was also wounded in the attack. Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto was shot dead near her home. Sorto was an active member of the Cabañas Environment Committee, which has campaigned against the reopening of a gold mine owned by the Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

-based Pacific Rim Mining Corporation.

See also

  • Climate Justice
    Climate justice
    Climate Justice is generally used as a term for viewing climate change as an ethical issue and considering how its causes and effects relate to concepts of justice, particularly social justice and environmental justice. For example examining issues such as equality, human rights and historical...

  • Climate Justice Action
    Climate Justice Action
    Climate Justice Action "is a global network of groups and individuals committed to taking action to prevent catastrophic climate change". CJA formed as part of the alternative mobilisation around the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and organised mass Direct actions...

  • Climate Justice Now
  • Deliberative democracy
    Deliberative democracy
    Deliberative democracy is a form of democracy in which public deliberation is central to legitimate lawmaking. It adopts elements of both consensus decision-making and majority rule. Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere...

  • Earth Summit
    Earth Summit
    The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 June to 14 June 1992.-Overview:...

     of 1992
  • Ecojustice Canada
    Ecojustice canada
    Ecojustice Canada , is a Canadian non-profit environmental law firm that uses litigation to defend and protect the environment.-Mission:...

  • Equity
    Equity theory
    Equity theory is a theory that attempts to explain relational satisfaction in terms of perceptions of fair/unfair distributions of resources within interpersonal relationships...

  • Greenhouse Development Rights
    Greenhouse Development Rights
    Greenhouse Development Rights is a justice-based effort-sharing framework designed to show how the costs of rapid climate stabilization can be shared fairly, among all countries...

  • Green banking
  • United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
    United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
    The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was an international conference convened under United Nations auspices held in Stockholm, Sweden from June 5–16, 1972...

     of 1972

Further reading

  • Vandana Shiva
    Vandana Shiva
    Vandana Shiva , is a philosopher, environmental activist, and eco feminist. Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than 20 books and over 500 papers in leading scientific and technical journals. She was trained as a physicist and received her Ph.D...

     - 2005, Earth Democracy; Justice, Sustainability, and Peace, South End Press, ISBN 0-89608-745-X ; See the online "preview" version of this book at this link

External links

Gardiner's paper
MacCracken's paper