Do we have a moral responsibility to protect the planet for future generations? Some people say “absolutely,” but many Americans do not yet see climate change as an ethical issue.

PhotoSteve Gardiner, a philosopher at the University of Washington, says part of the reason is that most of our emissions come from our desire for short-term convenience and inexpensive energy and food.

GARDINER: “But the full impact of those emissions is spread out over a very long period of time. And so many of the effects, and particularly the most severe, even catastrophic effects, are not to us now, but are in the future, and of course then on other people.”

This fact raises difficult questions about fairness and justice. So for some people, it is easier to ignore the ethics of climate change.

GARDINER: “If we were to continue to take our modest benefits now, and pass on the severe costs into the future, then one thing we might not like to do is draw attention to the fact that that’s what we’re doing. Cause looked at in that way, it seems morally indefensible.”

Gardiner says that to solve global warming, we need to understand and address it as an ethical problem — not just as a scientific, economic and political one.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
The Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, by Stephen Gardiner.
A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption
Is No One Responsible for Global Environmental Tragedy? Climate Change as a Challenge to Our Ethical Concepts (draft version)

Topics: Religion & Morality