Two factual assumptions (1) Need to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 to achieve stabilization at 2 degree above pre-industrial temperatures in order to avoid collective catastrophe. Most of this burden lies with the industrialised countries. Average per capita emissions of most people in North much higher than what is required.
Changes in climate are already happening and will continue to happen on a greater scale because of what has been emitted and will continue to be emitted even if we achieve 80% reduction by 2050. A disproportionate portion of the negative effects are and will be in developing countries. Two factual assumptions (2)
Ethics/Global Ethics Ethics is about the norms governing how we relate to other people (and beings more generally); broadly about how we affect their well-being (helping them and avoiding harming them), more specifically about whether our relationships to them are fair/just and/or respect their (human) rights.
Global ethics: explicit concern for our relationships with people anywhere in the world. Climate change is par excellence an issue for global ethics:
Our carbon habits affect people everywhere, now and in the future; and arguably a carbon intensive life- style contributes however indirectly to harming others if changing climate negatively affects the conditions of their well-being.
Three sets of distinctions Mitigation/facilitating adaptation Countries & other collective groups of human beings/individuals Ethical motivation: doing good and reducing harm done by others / reducing harm done by oneself and compensating for past emissions
Mitigation/facilitating adaptation Ethical arguments for reducing (dramatically) carbon footprint: general effects on humanity in future plus special effects on certain groups now, especially the poor and vulnerable. Ethical arguments for facilitating with adaptation for those already negatively affected by climate change especially the poor in poor countries
Countries & other collective groups of human beings/individuals What should e.g. nation states do? General ethical arguments or the specific arguments for entering into and abiding by international agreements. What should individuals do? Reduce their personal emissions and reliance on others emissions (indirect carbon footprint) - but by how much? Campaign for change – again how much?
Ethical motivation: doing good and reducing harm done by others / reducing harm done by oneself and compensating for past emissions Humanitarian impulse: we are trying to make/encourage others to act/work for a better/less bad world: by changing our carbon behaviour and/or contributing to measures to facilitate adaptation especially for the very poor. The latter may be simply a special case of the humanitarian impulse to help the poor, whatever the cause of the poverty.
Climate justice Forward looking: carbon-intensive states or individuals are acting unjustly if they continue to live this way. e.g. we each have an entitlement to that share of the atmospheric commons which if everyone emitted the same would lead to carbon stability; if we exceed that we are acting unjustly towards others, present and future or: (more simply) what if everyone (people in every country) lived the way I (those in my country) live? (golden rule)
In its simplest form the arguments are very radical. But: How much do we expect individuals e.g. to go beyond what is generally practised/expected? Other complications/moral considerations: e.g. family obligations; willingness to offset; Al Gore effect.
backward-looking: If individuals or states have emitted well above their entitlement/what is sustainable (and will continue to do so), then they ought to compensate for past wrongs/injustice especially to those who suffer as a consequence cf. global economic injustice arguments