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Global warming: An ethical issue or not

There is growing controversy as regards to the issues surrounding climate change due to global warming. Different interest groups ranging form policy makers to ethicists to academic experts and environmentalists have come up with varying theories regarding the cause and means for curbing global warming. Much of the debate has however focused on an ethical dimension to these global warming issues. This is because there has been concern on the laxity by some nations in committing themselves towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Various activities such as industrialization, technological advancement, and growth of the automobile industry, deforestation and agriculture have led to a tremendous increase in the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and chlorofluorocarbons which are the major greenhouse gases. Industrialization and deforestation are the main contributors at about 80% and 15% of total CO2 emissions (John, 2000). As a result of heat trapping by greenhouse gases, nations have had to bear the burden of dealing with elevated surface temperatures. Elevation in temperatures is known as the green house effect.

Global warming refers to the observed and projected elevation in the average temperatures of the earth’s surface. Global warming issues have attracted enormous interest due to the grave consequences associated with it. The manner in which most countries especially the Unite States are approaching climate change has prompted an ethical inclination to the global warming debate. The issue is highly contested with some arguing that it basically a matter of principles and morals while others despite the whole concept as scientific uncertainty.

Extensive work has been done on the subject by numerous experts but the ethical direction of global warming has not been satisfactorily answered (Sagoff, 2004). Since other approaches have failed to effectively identify the underpinnings to the problem as well as curbing it, it then remains that a critical analysis of the issue form an ethical dimension will help halt global arming and its effects. Various policies and initiatives established so far provide satisfactory evidence that global warming is an ethical issue.

In the twentieth century, The U. S and other rich nations have politicized the fight against global warming hence masking the ethical obligation towards preventing and controlling the same. The Kyoto Protocol (1997) came into a conclusion with number of recommendations that would ensure that the problem is curbed significantly. The recommendations required that highly industrialized nations such as China, Japan and U. S (Bouma-Prediger, 2001). reduce by 40% their CO2 emissions or other words 5.

2% less from the levels emitted in 1990 by the period between 2008 and 2012. This is because carbon dioxide accounts for 80% of all green house emissions. No sooner had this consensus been arrived at than U. S (which is the largest emitter) declined to abide by the recommendations. Like other countries, U. S is ethically obliged to adhere to the recommendations as they mean well for its citizens and the world’s environment at large. Failure to uphold to the moral codes fundamental to these requirements indicates an ethical neglect by the U. S.

With the first hearing of a global warming case in 2006, the Bush administration adopted a political dimension to the issue rather than addressing its moral obligation in protecting the environment for sake of its citizens and future generations (Barnett & Neil, 2005). It is the mandate of every individual to do all that they are morally and ethically obliged to for the sake of both current and future generations. The Bush administration thus failed to meet its moral promise in the name of sustainable development. Research shows that the effects of global warming contribute greatly to mortality rates across the world.

This has been though illnesses such as pulmonary complications and natural calamities such as adverse famines and floods. Experts warn that if the current trend continues, many people might die before they reach children bearing age hence putting the existence of future generations at stake. The issue of global warming has turned out to be a power fight between the rich countries and the poor with the rich extending injustices to the poor by persisting with their activities for the sake of their economic subsistence.

The poor on the other side have no means out as they are enslaved by the dominance of these rich nations from whom they get grants and other forms of aid. Environmentalists as well as other interest groups echoed the agreement reached by the 2001 global climate summit held in morocco where 160 countries unanimously agreed that forty of the heavily industrialized countries should reduce their emissions significantly (Timothy (a), 1997). The major role of the role accords is to promote a sustainable development and the welfare of the community.

It is of ethical basis then to uphold to these accords. From its definition, ethics revolves around doing that which one is morally obliged to do or doing the right rather than the wrong. The bush administration declined to adhere to the accords on the grounds that the accords would affect adversely the country’s economy. Additionally, the Bush administration shifted the blame to India and China arguing they should also be bound by the restrictions. Despite the scientific evidence of the dangers of a future catastrophe posed by global warming.

The tremendous increase in population in U. S and other places across the world has led into deforestation to create more land for settlement and agriculture. This is meant to accommodate the increasing numbers following competition brought about by the increased population. Deforestation leads to a degradation of the vegetation which plays a central in the control of global warming by absorbing a substantial amount of CO2 (John, 2000). This is yet another human activity that neglects the long-term consequences in the name of following short-term goals.

Skeptics of this dimension in the fight against global warming object the perspective on the grounds that global warming is just but a scientific uncertainty or in other words a hoax. Some individuals claim that the whole global warming issue is just but a move to intimidate some nations and that there is no point for being bound by the so called moral obligations espoused by the various interest groups (Timothy (b), 1997). However, for anyone to object the ethical linkage to global warming it is essential that they back up their objection with satisfactory evidence so as to disapprove the scientific facts.

Such objection has been the reason why the debate for global warming ethics has been shifted into a political mind game by the rich nations. Objecting the ethical nature of the issue has resulted into an over-inflation or under-inflation of the whole issue. It is apparent that those objecting the ethical dimension want to remain at their comfort zones and maintain the status quo of their preferred lifestyles. Rich nations for instance argue that adherence to the both the Kyoto and the Morocco summit accords may affect adversely their economic returns.

This has been the stand the Bush administration took to defend its disapproval for the ethical obligation toward curbing global warming. Form a deontological ethics perspective, every individual has an ethical duty to protect and respect the rights of other people. There is a moral imperative for U. S manufacturers to reduce their CO2 emissions to enable the country to comply with the accords (Timothy (a), 1997). The IPCC notes that the effect of climate change in the 22nd century will be most severely felt by the poor communities who lack the appropriate resources to cater for the effects of global warming.

Basing on the Earth Charter (a document widely endorsed to provide a guideline to ethical principles) human activity that neglects the grave consequences on the environment and the people is an ethical failure. Principle 4(a) of the Charter says, “Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations,” 4(b) “Transmit to future generations values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth’s human and ecological communities”(Barnett & Neil, 2005).

These and other sixty-five principles as well as three other general moral and ethical principles provide a guideline for human activity in relation to ethical practice and a sustainable future. It is apparent then that the fight against climate change is an ethical one where all ought to rethink their moral and ethical obligations and by these principles, critically evaluate every activity to ensure that it meets the promises for the community’s welfare.

Thus the ethical position in regards to the control of global warming revolves around knowing our stand in relationship with the environment as well as developing the virtues that shape our actions to facilitate that which enhances our ethical obligation to the created world. As a problem caused by both structural failure and most importantly irresponsibility, global warming is real and scientific evidence proves that. It then implies that the most effective solution to the global warming challenge would be one that approaches the issue form a moral obligation basis.

However, John (2000) argues that this is greatly a matter of responsibility rater than structural adjustment. There exist a vast number of resources that can serve as alternatives if we were to abandon the emission accelerating techniques or resources that are in use today. For instance, innovation has led to the production of energy through sustainable means such as biofuels, solar and wind energy which if implemented widely can significantly curb green house emissions. Research findings on the correlation beteen human activity and global warming imply that the whole concept is centered on responsibility rather than policy.

Sagoff (2004), talks of virtue ethics as an appropriate direction to consider in enhancing the moral motivation necessary to facilitate for the reduction of such human activity in the view that good people usually act morally and ethically in all situations. Environmentalists point out that the activities for promoting a strengthened energy security, protecting the degradation of the environment and growing the economy are inherently linked and that visionary leadership and action is essential to ensure that individuals act ethically to curb global warming and promote sustainable development. References Barnett, T. P. , & Neil, A. (2005).

Security and Climate Change: Towards an Improved Understanding. Oslo, Norway. Bouma-Prediger, S. (2001). For the Beauty of the Earth. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. John, J. B. (2000). Beating the Heat: Why and How We Must Combat Global Warming. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Hills Books. Sagoff, M. (2004). Price, Principle, and the Environment, Cambridge University Press Timothy C. W. (1997). Industrial Ecology and the Change of Corporate Cultural Consciousness, Environmental Ethics, 1(4), pp. 67-81 Timothy, C. W. (1997). Tradable Emission Permits and the Ethics of Global Atmospheric Pollution. Environmental Ethics, 1(8), pp. 131-143

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