Ethical Theories on Climate Change

Global climate change is the defining issue of our era. This claim is supported by the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As captured in this report, global climatic change has resulted to the endangerment of the human welfare and balance of nature. These changes confront humanity with many challenges and greatly affect our way of life. The increase in the global climatic change calls for immediate action and response. In addition, the questions of what is to be done and what criterion of action is proper have also been raised. Human actions over the years have not only been thought to cause this menace but have also been contributed to its intensification and acceleration. On the other hand, it is also argued that natural forces are the cause of climate. This shows that the ethical stakes surrounding it cannot be avoided. A proper understanding of the causes of climate change are thus needed to enable effective action may be taken with an ethical understanding, because ignoring this global threat may lead to great damage of life in general. Also taking actions that are not properly examined and their effects taken into consideration may also lead to greater effects that may even destabilize our societies and the world in general. In addition, the need for ethical approach in solving climatic change is also emphasized by the nature of climatic change potential to bring about disagreements among the different parties involved due to their fight for their own interests. The formulation of an ethics of response to climatic change will directly affect the immediate and future well-being of a great number of people who acts as the immediate victims of global climatic change or on the other hand, are in the category of those causing the global climatic change. Unfortunately ethical concerns are normally disregarded in global climatic change discussion forums. As highlighted by Ten, with regards to response to environmental problems when it comes to solving them, the parties involved applies approaches that makes them adopt decisions and actions meant for solving this tragedy without giving a thought on the appropriateness and the effectiveness of the action in solving the problem. This paper focuses on ethical theories understanding of the causes of climatic change and the preferred effective course of action in solving this menace of global climatic change.

Climate Change Causes and Solutions As Outlined In My Issue Response Paper

Human causes have resulted to global climatic change. As reported by McLamb, industrialization has been the major cause of global warming. It is believed that with realization of industrialization, human labor was replaced with usage of fuels for running industries and these resulted to increased emission of carbon to the atmosphere. In addition, another anthropogenic cause of global warming is the emission of greenhouse gases. Human activities lead to the release of gases that accumulates in the atmosphere. This gases then results in the destruction of the ozone layer. On the other hand, Meredith attributes the cause of global warming to the natural causes. Natural forces are attributed to have caused this resent rise in temperature. This believe is supported by the observation that from 1940-1980 temperatures did not increase along with carbon dioxide concentrations in the way anthropogenic global warming theory would suggest (Spencer 19). This supports that global warming could be caused by natural causes as suggested by Meredith. Since climatic change poses great threat to life in general, strategies to address this menace are being put in place. Addressing this problem we are required to target the causes. Human causes being the major cause of the problem, human activities emitting gases in the atmosphere should be addressed to avoid the same. There should be a reduction in gases emitted from industries into the atmosphere. This could be achieved by replacing Sulphur products with electric power system and substituting aluminum and magnesium for hydrofluorocarbon as it was proposed by the Regional Environmental Centre Turkey. There also should be promotion of organic farming that would result in the reduction of methane and nitrogenous gas productions. In transport sector, congestion management and energy security policies should also be adopted.

Personally I attribute the major cause of global climatic change to industrialization. There is production and emission of a lot of gases from our industries and this has greatly affected our atmosphere and, hence, resulted to climatic changes. I, therefore, propose that strict rules to be enacted to prevent violation of the stipulated policies. Carbon taxing introduction will also help in reducing the amount of waste gases emitted as the industries will be forced to limit their emission to the set limits.

Ethical Theories View on the Proposed Causes of Climate Change and Suggested Actions to Prevent Further Climate Change

According to Jeffrey, many philosophers have written on the subject of global climatic change without scrutinizing the science, but have appealed to the authority of the IPCC. This demonstrates the importance of application of ethics in finding the sources and establishing appropriate courses of actions to be taken in solving this tragedy. This is due to the fact that the scientific approaches used in the management of the climate are still not developed. The personnel working in this field very little scientific bases in their works and justification of their actions. These scientists rely majorly on human interpretation and choices. As demonstrated by climatic models, there is a lot of speculations and insufficient scientific knowledge when it comes to issues regarding climate management (Soon et al, 259-275). This shows the need to incorporate ethic principles in the process of establishing methods of managing climate change. Ethical theories represent different moral principles, each describing moral bases that can be used in evaluating an action if it is morally accepted or not in different situations (Gershuny et al 481-498). Ethical theories have great application in human resource practices guidelines and in social responsibility policies. Ethical theories have a great role in proper ethical decision making. Through the application of ethical theories in decision making and in choosing appropriate actions, we are able to provide justification of our decisions and actions in any difficult situati. Ethical decisions are made using a long process which is made up stages which are all influenced by various factors which includes the environment, the individual involved and how challenging the situation is.

Ethical theories in this process plays important role from the beginning with the identification of the ethical issue, then helps in making decision of the appropriate action to be taken and also lastly provides justification of the action taken. In solving ethical issue, the individual or the organization is involved in a situation that requires him or her to choose several actions that will face ethical viewing as being ethical or unethical. According to Sonenshein, ethical issues can be interpreted in many different ways. (1022-1040). Climatic change and the different approaches used to address it may be taken as problematic ethical issue since they do not fit into well-used categorization schemes and is nontraditional (Clegg et al 1-16). This situation that our global village faces today is ambiguous and uncertain. This has resulted to a lot of suspicions among people which have led people making their own understanding of the situation which have led them take their respective actions. (Maitlis 21-49). The factor that has been found to affect this process has been the moral intensity of the issue. The moral intensity of a situation is determined by various such as the impact and the social acceptance degree of the action taken.

Decision making is affect by moral seriousness of the matter. The actions taken to address this problem of global warming have also been subjected into ethical reasoning. In this case the actions taken in solving this issue are evaluated if they are ethical or unethical. The normative ethical theories have different principles that have been applied to explain the decisions and actions taken or suggested by various organizations that are in the front line in the fight against global warming. The various ethical theories are outlined as follows:

Ethical Egoism

This theory focuses on the benefits an action can bring when done. There are two important forms of egoism. The first one is psychological egoism which describe human behavior in a way that human are by nature behaving to advantage themselves. On the other hand ethical egoism describes people actions as purely guided by their own self-interest (Jones et al 137). An act is thus taken to be ethical is in long term benefits the individual. In this case people engage in activities that promote their own best interest, thus the nations that are industrialized will tend to blame the cause of global warming to natural causes as advocated by Meredith. They will engage in arguments and in writing publications that tries to justify their belief. On the other hand, the countries that have not invested heavily in industries and machinery blame the cause of global warming to the industrialization. On the action taken to prevent further global warming, like the carbon taxing, industrialized nations highly opposes moves like this and sometimes asks for higher limits of emission. The nations that have invested highly on farming are also opposes the attempt to engage only on organic farming but supports carbon taxing as remedy to climate change. This shows how the two opposing sides act alongside their self-interest.


According to this theory an act is considered ethical if it brings about maximum utility. Utility can be described as the pleasure achieved from an action. Preference utilitarianism is based on people`s want, preference and behavior but not on pleasure as show by Snoeyenbos and Humbler. Utilitarianism theory emphasizes on the results and not on the ways used to get those results. In addition it takes into consideration both present and later gains or losses of an action (Schumann 93-111).

Thus according to this theory, an action is ethical if it results into a good result to the community involved. There are act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. The act utilitarianism focuses in maximizing gain and minimizing loss in any undertaking while the rule utilitarianism is based on taking rules meant to results to greatest benefit. In the view to this theory, various rules and policies have been formulated by the international community in a bid to manage global warming and prevent the increase in the climatic change in the present generation and generations to come. Through application of rule utilitarianism rule should be formulated to govern the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (International Panel of Climate Change) As it was suggested by the Regional Environmental Centre Turkey, rules that ensure the reduction in the gases emitted as by-products should formulate. This rule will govern the industries on how to dispose their waste gases. Even though this may incur some costs on the industries as well as reduce their production as the amount of gas they are to emit will be restricted, in the long run this action will save our global village from experiencing adverse climate changes.

According to this theory, various actions like promotion of organic farming are supported. This kind of farming even though may be expensive and not very productive compared to inorganic farming, would reduce the production of methane and nitrogenous gases. This will reduce amount of gases released in the atmosphere thus preventing further climate changes (IPCC). As it has also been emphasized by this theory, the Regional Environmental Center Turkey suggestion that there should be sustainable development in the industry to target congestion management and energy security was ethical. The proposal of the use of public transport, aviation and light-vehicle hybrids was a good course of action as this will in return lowers the amount of gases emitted in the atmosphere thus preventing global warming.


Deontology was proposed by Emmanuel Kant who argued that the morally right actions are those carried out with a sense of duty. According to Bowie, an action is considered proper based on the good intention behind it not by its results. This theory is based on the philosophy of categorical imperative. This philosophy dictates that people to be treated fairly and not to be exploited in any undertaking. This theory also advocates contribution of every member on the rules and policies used to govern him or her. This theory in addition emphasizes that decision made and actions taken should be universally accepted. According to this theory, some decisions being made to counteract global warming are not ethical because some are not based on the principle of good will and others are not universally accepted. Some of the rules and actions taken to prevent further climatic change seems oppressive to some thus there is a lot of opposition on their implementation. This theory thus suggest that the decision made and actions taken to prevent further climate change should be agreed upon by all parties involved and should be universally accepted.

Rights Theory

Based on this theory, the rights of everyone should be observed in all decisions made. According to rights theories there negative and positive rights. The negative right is the responsibility to give the freedom actions to anyone in the area covered by the right. On the other hand positive right gives rewards to the party involved.

Schumann described a moral accepted action as the one that does not interfere with the rights of others (93-111).This theory calls on the restriction of decisions and actions taken to prevent further climatic change. This theory suggests that any policy or action taken towards implementation of preservation of the atmosphere should not violate the rights of other people. Some of the suggestions that have been made in the fight against global warming have violated the rights of other. Like the suggestion of shifting from the preferred inorganic farming to the organic farming. This is a violation of the right of the farmer to manage their activities.

Ethical Relativism

Relativism states that what we claim to possess as knowledge is merely points of view and not absolute truth or validity, but only having relative, subjective value that is characterized by differences in perception and consideration. Ethical relativism is of two forms. According to subjective ethical relativism, there is no absolute or universal truth and the truth of the moral principle is relative to the individual. At the same time, according to conventional ethical relativism there is no absence of truth of the acclaimed moral principles. The truth here depends on the culture in question.

This theory stresses on the lack of absolute truth on everything. This affects the way in which people believes are the causes of the climatic change. Some believes that the causes are human causes thus they also believe that the remedy of this problem would be managing human activities that result in emission of gases in the atmosphere. On the other hand some believes that the climatic change is caused by natural forces thus they do not agrees with the decision and action of managing human activities as a way of preventing further global warming. This theory thus emphasizes on the use of different approaches to solve the issue of climatic change based on the people believes of what is right for them.

            The Best System to Solve the Menace of Climate Change

Utilitarianism is the most influential and dominant normative consequential theory of ethical philosophy. The best thing about this theory is that if focuses on the end results of the action. It also considers all the existing and likely benefits and harms of any action taken. This theory in addition promotes actions and decision that results to greatest total or ultimate advantage to the society as a whole. In the fight against global warning this theory can play a crucial role as it will focus on the end results that are beneficial to all and this is the prevention of further climatic change. The system takes into consideration the impact of the action taken even on the future generation. Thus this theory will support actions and decisions that would preserve our atmosphere even for future generations.

Personally, I still feel that industrialization plays a key role in causing climate change. There needs to be an enactment of stricter rules on industries that violate the stipulated policies. The best way to achieve this would be by carbon taxing. Through this technique, industries that emit an excess of a set limit should be charged depending on the excess of the waste gas emitted.  The reason for the soundness of the idea is because this would be a more direct way of targeting the defaulter.


Climate change experienced in the world today is as a result of both human causes and also natural causes, read those essays on climate change for some more information. This climate change poses a great threat to life in this planet. Therefore measures to prevent further climate change are thus needed to be put in place. In the process of establishing the appropriate measure to be taken, proper ethics perspective must be taken into consideration. This will prevent conflicts between different parties involved as there will be harmonization of the action taken.