Home > AGW, Catastrophism, Omniclimate, Policy, Science > Is It Ethical To Hold a Biased, Negative View on Climate Change?

Is It Ethical To Hold a Biased, Negative View on Climate Change?

There are at least two key omissions in John Broome’s “The Ethics of Climate Change” (Scientific American, June 2006). One is about the uncertainties of predicting the future. The other concerns the unethical stance of considering Climate Change as purely a collection of negatives.

(1) There are many things we do not know about future climate. The IPCC itself is not in the business of predicting anything, rather of working on projections of where the global climate may be heading to, for those variable that we can compute. There are other variables involved, that are not captured by climate models (for example, of course volcanoes cannot be foretold). In other words, there is no way to know what the climate of 2058 or 2108 will actually be.

There is no trace of such uncertainty in Broome’s discourse. I would go as far as to say, Prof. Broome completely disregards the concept of risk management.

And so we are told at some point that we should take a “temporally impartial” stance, that is the death of a child today is as important as the death of a child in 100 years’ time (Broome rather unethically recommends to read his books to find out why).

But a child dying today is a certainty, whilst little can be said about children decades in the future: their very lives, and their deaths are a matter of probabilities. And surely the longer we try to see in the future, the fewer the chances of getting those probabilities right.

A Victorian scientist would have had no idea of how many children would survive today into adulthood. To claim that we are better today at seeing the XXII century is truly preposterous.

(2) As many sad articles about Climate Change, Broome’s is a collection of negatives.

Now, does one have to be a philosopher to understand that, as in almost everything else, in climate matters too there are positives and negatives whatever happens? Because the alternative would be, to consider a cooling world as a collection of positives…

We are told for example of how many deaths and disasters will Climate Change bring. Is Prof Broome aware of the fact that heat waves kill the already-dying, whilst cold waves simply kill? Death rates get below average at the end of a heat wave: they only get back to normal at the end of a cold wave.

Where are the people whose lives will be saved by an increase in global temperature? Certainly nowhere to be seen or taken care of in Broome’s article. And why not? Are some deaths more equal than others?

WIll people matter if they die because of heat, and matter less or not at all if they die because of cold?

=========

Until such huge reasoning and moral gaps are not filled up properly, I will say thank you, but no thank you, I don’t need your ethical lessons, Prof. Broome.

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  1. 2008/12/11 at 13:00

    Why do i always hear doom and gloom on global warming . i was taught in science that for every action there is an opposite equal reaction . So we warm the planet will that cause more cloud ? Will we then have more rain ? Will some of that rain fall in areas that does not have much rain ? There has been talk of how high the seas will rise if the north pole would melt but isnot that floating ice ? and floating ice melting would not raise the sea try it with an ice cube in a glass of water . Maybe i am dumb but i see that there is money to be made out of carbon trading and where there is money there could be a scam . I do think we should stop polluting this planet but i dont thinkl that our cars are the only cause of co2in the atmostphere one decent volcano will put more pollutants in the atmostphere than we can in ten years , and history says that there have been hundreds in the past eons

  2. Alex Cull
    2008/05/23 at 12:20

    As far as I am concerned, what it boils down to is this: there are people in the world who are suffering and dying, due to a number of causes. For instance, one known cause is contaminated drinking water. Governments and charities can spend money on things that can help this situation, e.g., better infrastructure, better hospitals, education for women, etc. Or they can spend this money on “tackling climate change”.

    So: they have a choice, either to devote this money to improving the situation directly (let’s say, connecting an actual village somewhere in Asia to a sewer system) or spending it on attempting to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, in the hope that this will address the problem sometime in the future.

    In my opinion, the second option would be far less effective than the first. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that an NGO has 6,000 USD allocated to reducing suffering and death caused by contaminated water. These 6,000 Dollars can pay for water storage tanks in Uttar Pradesh, or they can go towards “tackling climate change”, perhaps to plant a grove of trees in Indonesia.

    I think that ultimately, the second option is no different to gambling. It is like someone walking into a casino with 6,000 Dollars and placing it all on one spin of the roulette wheel. This person would have decided: “I can enjoy the benefits of this money now, or I can gamble, on the chance that my winnings (if I win) will create far more benefits than I would have gained, had I not gambled.” I think my hypothetical NGO might be making a similar choice, basing their decision on several criteria, which if true would correspond to the win at roulette. If one or more of these are untrue, however (as I suspect is the case!), this would correspond to losing the gamble. They would win the gamble only:

    1- If we are still in a period of global warming and there is a continuing upward trend in average global temperatures AND
    2- If this warming is mainly the result of increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere AND
    3- If this warming trend will be responsible for more suffering and death caused by contaminated drinking water than is occurring now AND
    4- If man-made carbon dioxide is a significant factor in the total level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere AND
    5- If it is possible to reduce levels of man-made carbon dioxide without damaging the economy to a level where we have even more suffering and death caused by contaminated drinking water (which would be defeating the object) AND
    6- If reducing man-made carbon dioxide will reduce atmospheric levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide generally AND
    7- If reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide will halt or reverse the warming trend AND
    8- If money spent on planting that grove of trees in Indonesia will have an appreciable effect on atmospheric levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Well, I’m not a scientist, economist or mathematician, and it’s possible that my reasoning is at fault, or too simplistic. But if I was in a position to make this kind of choice, I wouldn’t want to gamble. I’d probably want to spend the money addressing a measurable problem affecting actual people now, i.e. I would want to install those water storage tanks in Uttar Pradesh.

  3. 2008/05/23 at 04:25

    I don’t need to disprove yet again the absurdity of those who hold that it is moral to ignore the reality of global warming, and the clear moral imperative to take quick and decisive action to eliminate it, but I do need to provide the following link, so those who are interested my find the truth and the organization to support the necessary action:

    http://www.stopglobalwarming.org/

  4. 2008/05/22 at 19:06

    Simply answering your question, unequivocally ‘no’! It is never good or right to have bias in any discipline. One would think predicated upon your article, that many in the world of science would be set free of this irrational bias (based on my research, most scientists pretty much dispel this entire drama).

    Notwithstanding however is the notion that one should always be weighing in on every bit of moral, ethical and life sciences insofar as that is being prudent. Furthermore, as far as Professor Bloome is concerned, he might be better served if he were looking for mass asteroids swirling past the rings of Saturn.

    I would have loved to have read this piece before the onslaught of Al Gore’s bombastic bullsquat. CHEERS!

    Omc aka jon-paul

  5. 2008/05/22 at 14:27

    I agree. there are so many negatives out there about the climate, global warming etc. Like you said no one back during all the plagues could have ever known how children during this era would handle illnesses like that. Just like there is no way with imperative certainty we can predict the future of the world 50+ years from now. As I see it there have been global warmings and coolings through out history or there would have been no ice age…am I right on that??? I for one, being a lupus fighter, am more than happy to live without heat…the sun is an enemy to me, so the cooler the day the more I can be outside enjoying nature. And also, I am a person who likes to hear positives once in awhile. In this world of negatives it would really be nice to hear something positive about our world from time to time. Just my humble opinion!

  6. Douglas Hoyt
    2008/05/22 at 11:45

    There is also the question of the morality and ethics of the proposed “solutions” to climate change. There is a lot of corruption going on and here is one example excerpted from the Guardian:

    “The documents written by carbon consultants to justify why their clients’ projects should be approved for CDM offsets contain enough lies to make a sub-prime mortgage pusher blush. One commonly used “scam” is to make a proposed project look like an economic loser on its own, but a profitable earner once offset income is factored in. Examples include the Indian wind developers who failed to tell the CDM about the lucrative tax credits their projects were earning.”

    More at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/21/environment.carbontrading

    Years ago I was told that the Russian mafia was very anxious to get into the carbon trading business. After all, the mafia in the US got going with Prohibition in the US and Kyoto is just a bigger version.

  7. 2008/05/22 at 02:17

    You raise some very good points here.

    “WIll people matter if they die because of heat, and matter less or not at all if they die because of cold?”

    Great line.

  1. 2008/05/23 at 21:53

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