Environmental Philosophy, Lecture two

Environmental Philosophy, Lecture two

Note, Despite this document being called Lecture Two, there is no document for Lecture One. Lecture One was an introductory session with no information relevant to take notes on.
When mentioning Gardner, this document specifically references Stephen M. Gardner in his article “Ethics and Global Climate Change, Source: Ethics, Vol. 114, No. 3 (April 2004), pp. 555-600 Published by: The University of Chicago Press” Climate change (in Gardner’s article) is defined as interference in the climate system. Climate change has many consequences. Including (but not limited to) a global rise in temperature.

According to Gardner, climate change has many ethical dimensions. Despite this, few ethicists discuss the issue (in 2004). Gardner attributes this to the multidisciplinary nature of the issue. It is for this reason that Garner sets out to give ethicists a sufficient scientific background, highlighting the ethical dimensions along the way.

The question of uncertainty
We know that there are uncertainties in the science of climate change. Whether this uncertainty is acceptable is a normative question of epistemology.
Gardner claims that we are certain the consequences of climate change will be bad, but we know not when they will occur nor how bad they will be. According to him, this has fuelled the climate sceptics. To prevent further scepticism, Gardner makes a distinction between uncertainty and risk. With this distinction, Gardner argues that we are not uncertain about the effects of climate change, because we know the probabilities, in other words, we know the risk. However, Gardner also makes some of his point in the “uncertain system”.

Economical arguments

We should not spend our money on climate change (prevention). Instead, we should spend money helping those who will be worst affected (the poor). After all, this approach is cheaper.

This argument fails, because it is based on our current day models of climate change and economic costs. Besides, the cost of something is not the only thing that matters

“Did you see her Christmas list? Geez, teens today know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
Oscar Wilde

Our current ethical systems are built for (have evolved in) a world with a low population density, few technological advancements and a seemingly infinite pool of natural resources. Perhaps these moral systems are not sufficient in judging the problems of the postmodern world.

A few principles have come out of our current moral systems however. These include the “No Harm System” and the “Precautionary principle”.

Further ethical issues are raised when it comes to our responsibility to the Past and the Future. These issues are mainly relevant when discussing the division of labour in climate change mediation.