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Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Ethics of Global Climate Change, edited by Denis G. Arnold

I recently read The Ethics of Global Climate Change, edited by Denis G. Arnold (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011). I have a few thoughts on the book.

First, the authors all accept that the global climate is changing, and that humans are playing a significant role in such change. Unfortunately, some of our political leaders, or potential leaders, don't seem to believe this. The editor compares the fossil fuel industry's tactics on obfuscating the reality of climate change to the tobacco industry's campaign to discredit the link between smoking and cancer. Although adding Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere is not the only thing we do that plays a role in climate change, it is probably the most important, and the authors didn't consider other actions in any depth.

Second, the topic given the most space in the book is the ethics of what happens to future generations as a result of decisions made, or not made, in the present. Most likely, our descendants will suffer in significant ways because of current inaction, or slow action, on our part.

Third, there seems to be general agreement, among people thinking about the issues, that regulating what countries do is not the only important thing that should be done. There are individuals, in all countries, who have a disproportionate effect on future climate, because of their life style is contributing more Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere than most people. (There are also individuals in all countries, including the US, such as, I suppose, the Amish, and homeless people, who are making little such contribution.) So regulating the United States, and not, say, Bangladesh, may mean that a few of the inhabitants of Bangladesh will be affecting the atmosphere considerably more than the average citizen of the US, but their actions will remain unregulated.

Fourth, there was little discussion of the effect of global climate change on non-human organisms, apparently because there has been little study of the issues.

I close with a quotation from the book: "Every state is a 'failed state' as far as climate is concerned." Henry Shue, "Human rights, climate change, and the trillionth ton," pp. 292-314. Quote is from p. 297.

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Your biggest problem is THEY have never ever proven cancer is caused by smoking. There are no toxicological studies showing biological transformation of smoking thru the years causes cancer.......

7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
November 2004.

"5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke - induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease."

In other words ... our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can't even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact ... we don't even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.

The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory

Martin LaBar said...

Well, we do know how tobacco does at least some of the things it does.

See the Wikipedia:
Which says that "Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally."

The article also mentions several carcinogens found in tobacco.

Thanks for your comment.

atlibertytosay said...

Martin, I am a believer that we do damage but how minimally or maximally I'm unconvinced.

I'd say the biggest problem is deforestation and overfishing.

BUT, all human damage MUST be weighed against the cycles of the sun, the earth's magnetic field, etc etc.

The Sun is acting VERY differently lately and will continue so for another 10 years from what I read. How has man affected the sun? The answer is; we haven't.

I'm also unconvinced that seismic/volcanic activity isn't affecting the weather.

My dad says … some days in the 50's it felt like 200 outside, but in general, the 70's felt cold.

I think there's a lot of money in global warming - mostly in speaking about it - not much concerning doing something about it.

Kooky people on both sides of the argument tend to turn off people who think rationally or are generally neutral about politics.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay.

A lot of things affect climate, and I am not a climatologist, but professional climatologists seem to be almost unanimous in thinking that humans are, indeed, causing some changes in our climate.

There's a lot of money in denying global warming, too.