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United States acting unethically on global warming says new report

United States acting unethically on global warming says new report

United States acting unethically on global warming says new report
November 8, 2006

For all the lip service the U.S. government gives to “values”, a new paper raises some troubling ethical questions on its global warming stance

A new paper argues that ethics, human rights, and justice should be key components to international negotiations on global warming. It says that some countries, notably the United States, are currently taking positions that are “ethically problematic” and may violate basic human rights of people living in other countries.

Released at the United Nations Climate Change Conference meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, The “White Paper on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change” says that “nations that use scientific uncertainty, cost to their national economy alone, lack of action by other nations, or waiting for new, less costly technologies to be invented as justifications for not reducing their emissions to a level that represents its fair share of safe total global emissions, are acting unethically,” according to a news release from the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change.

Climate change, largely fueled by pollution from the world’s wealthiest countries, is expected to disproportionately impact the world’s poorest countries, where drought and natural disasters already conspire to cause widespread suffering and poverty. Recent climate models show that mean surface temperatures in Africa may climb by 2-6 degrees C by 2100 with a corresponding drop in precipitation. The U.N. says that by 2025 some 480 million Africans could be living in water scarce or water stressed areas. Meanwhile climate change could create moderate agricultural benefits in some parts of the United States, Canada, and northern Europe. The great irony is that while Africa has the world’s lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing the least to global climate change, it has been forced to bear the brunt of the phenomenon.

The new report argues that wealthy countries responsible for bulk of the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels have on ethical responsibility to the rest of the world to address the problem.

2005 surface temperature anomaly — degrees above normal temperature — according to NASA. Note the deep orange and red color of Africa. Meanwhile an image of the world at night reveals where most carbon emissions come from. Comparison inspired by of

Photo courtesy of C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC), NOAA/NGDC, DMSP Digital Archive.

“Climate change policies developed by nations that result in harm to life, liberty, and securities of people in other nations violate basic human rights,” said the paper. “The world community must refuse giving credence to these arguments as a matter of justice and ethics.”

The paper states that “ethical principles require that all nations must:

This article quotes extensively from a Penn State news release.


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