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Global Warming and Humankind’s Response
Global Warming is a highly debated topic in today’s society. While it widely accepted by all scientists and the general public, a growing number of people have doubts that it is actually happening. These people may choose to blame it on the normal cycle that earth goes, or they may deny it all together. People who are denying climate change get in the way of important changes that need to be made in order reverse it, or at least stop it’s progression before it is too late. However, there are ethical issues when it comes to dealing with climate change. 

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Climate change, although widely accepted has been, and is still denied by some today. However, when looking at the straight facts it is obvious that global warming is real. According to NASA’s website, the planet’s surface temperature has risen by about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century and the number of record highs recorded has increased while record lows have decreased.  The global sea level has risen about 8 inches over the past century, and the rate of this increase in the last two decades has more than doubled (“Global”). AS a result of the increased CO2 in the atmosphere the oceans are absorbing about 2 billion more tons of carbon dioxide per year, leading to a 30 percent increase in acidity (“Global”). NASA’s data from their Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show that the ice in Greenland lost between 150 to 250 cubic kilometers of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, and Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers of ice between the same years (“Global”).  NASA has also discovered that these changes, are definitely not a part of a normal environment cycle. Ice cores tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks all show that show that the earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels (“Global”) These studies have also found that as of today the earth’s climate is changing an estimated ten times faster than the average rate of ice age recovery warming (“Global”). This shows that it is at least 95 percent likely that this current warming trend is due to human impact on the environment (“Global”). For these reasons, climate change is having an extremely large impact on our environments and, if left untreated, it will continue to have an even larger impact. 

The question of ethics comes into play when considering a course of action to take action against global warming. Who’s responsible and to what degree? How far should we go to decrease carbon emissions as well as other greenhouse gases? What is our ethical responsibility to future generations?  Although it is technically possible for humans to reduce carbon emissions 50 to 80 percent tomorrow, doing so is going to cause severe social and economic chaos whereas doing nothing will leave future generations with an unfixable climate problem (Gardiner). There is also the fact that while most of the carbon dioxide already in the air is from developed countries today, the countries still contributing the most, are developing ones (Somerville). Developing countries such as China, Brazil, India, and Russia are exploiting a huge amount of fossil fuels for economic development, In 2008 China passed the U.S. as the nation emitting the largest amount of fossil fuels (Somerville). These facts to lead to more questions; Who has the right to place fossil fuel guidelines on developing countries and place burdens on them as they are developing? Is it fair to give these developing nations burdens when the developed nations of today didn’t have to worry about any? Other ethical questions include the effect on global economy. Fuel prices will rise, enacting these policies will be too expensive and jobs lost in the coal and other energy industries (Krause). Is trying to stop global warming worth all of these issues? When tackling all of these issues it’s important to look at the issue from all perspectives; the perspective people who will be largely affected by new policies, perspectives of people who won’t, and the perspective of people in the future who will be tremendously affected by decisions made today. Geoengineering is the use of engineering and technology to reverse the effects of climate change. Many of these approaches are possible, such as using technology to make the earth more reflective, hoping that the reduced amount of sunlight absorbed will compensate for a stronger greenhouse effect. This could be done through large mirrors or sulfate particles that will reflect the light (Somerville). These prospects raise many ethical questions though. Is it ethical fix a man-made problem with man-made shortcuts? 

When it comes to the ethical debate how to treat global warming, and weighing the pros and the cons of each choice, changes should be made to the way people live their life now, and how big businesses operate. The earth is a shared planet between everyone who has ever and will ever call it a home. Developed countries should take bigger steps in stopping their carbon footprint and help out developing countries reduce theirs as well. While it’s not fair to expect developing countries to be able to grow and prosper under strict environmental guidelines, it is fair to expect wealthy countries to everything they can to stop the rapid decline of the climate. When looked at from an ethical standpoint, if humans continue on as they are now, not only will they ruin the planet for future generations of humans, but they will also ruin the planet for animals who have done nothing to contribute to the decline of the earth. When faced with the facts of climate change, people who are in a position to do so are ethically obligated to help stop it. The ethical argument that jobs may be lost if we were to eradicate the coal industry has a valid ethical standpoint, but when money is put into finding to new resources and new sources of energy, millions of jobs will be created that will replace the jobs lost in the first place. Another argument that it would be too inexpensive is invalidated and proved ethically unsound by the fact that the estimated price tag in 140 billion U.S. dollars, which may sound like a lot but it’s only .01 percent of the global GDP (“Climate”). The argument that fuel prices will rise, and will put more strain on working families is also ethically unjust as the higher cost of gas and the strain that will put on certain people does not outweigh the tragedy of the pollution ruined the earth. Letting the earth continue on the path it is going and introducing geoengineering, while better than nothing, still is not an ethically just option. Chances are that these solutions will cost more than it would to cut down on fossil fuel and energy usage as it is, and may just cause more problems. Geoengineering would also allow humans to continue on a destructive path while just relying on scientists to just come up with a way to fix it. For these reasons, the ethical solution to global warming is to introduce new policies limiting fossil fuel usage and monitoring big industrial companies. 

Works Cited
“Climate change: 11 things you need to know.” Conservation International, Conservation International, 2017, www.conservation.org/stories/Pages/11-things-you-need-to-know-about-climate-change.aspx?gclid=Cj0KCQiAgs7RBRDoARIsANOo-HhIh3VAQJFU_DFhrysik3UutVSznwgdzno_EjBM2u2HKLYqjMzVs_MaAg80EALw_wcB.
Gardiner, Stephen. “Opinion | Why climate change is an ethical problem.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 9 Jan. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2016/01/09/why-climate-change-is-an-ethical-problem/?utm_term=.fd552d493e20.
“Global Climate Change.” NASA, NASA, 13 Dec. 2017, climate.nasa.gov/.
Krause, Nicholas. “Rock Ethics Institute | Meet the Challenge. Stand Up. Make a Difference.” The Rock Ethics Institute, Pennsylvania State University, 5 Dec. 2017, rockethics.psu.edu/everyday-ethics/ethical-issues-entailed-by-economic-arguments-against-climate-change-policies.
Somerville, Richard. “The Ethics of Climate Change.” Yale E360, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 2 June 2008, e360.yale.edu/features/the_ethics_of_climate_change.

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