Ethical Issues Raised by Global Warming

Ethical Issues Raised by Global Warming

      Tera Bazanka

      SOC 120

      Robert Strain

      February 19, 2010

      In 1950, the world’s population was 2.5 billion people.   By the year 2050, it is expected to grow to between nine and ten billion people.   During this time of population growth, the human impact on the planet is expected to increase significantly, not only because of the huge increase in our numbers, but also because of the new technical power to dig deeper, cut faster, build larger, and traverse more quickly great distances in automobiles, trucks, and planes.   As a result, serious new environmental problems have emerged.   These problems include global climate change; worldwide loss of rain forests, and wetlands; decline of coastal ocean quality; and the deterioration of the world’s freshwater and ecological systems.
  These new threats raise critical new ethical questions for the human race.   Yet even some of the most obvious ethical dimensions of emerging global environmental problems are only dimly seen by most; rarely are they part of the public debate.   In a 1999 New York Times op-ed piece on climate change entitled “Indifferent to Planet Pain,” Bill McKibben, wondering why the ethical dimensions of global warming were not more widely understood, writes:

“I used to wonder why my parents’ generation had been so blind to the wrongness of segregation; they were people of good conscience, so why had inertia ruled so long?   Now I think I understand better.   It took the emotional shock of seeing police dogs rip the flesh of protestors for white people to really understand the day-to-day corrosiveness of Jim Crow.   We need that same gut understanding of our environmental situation if we are to take the giant steps we must take soon.”

    Most ethical systems are focused on our responsibilities to people who are close by and can be directly affected by our actions.   The technical power that humans now have to affect people...