Global Warming Disaster Merits Widespread Moral Outrage
Global warming will take its toll of human life to the tune of hundreds of thousands every year. According to John Broome–the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Oxford–these unfortunate victims of society’s next big challenge will die by three main causes: heat waves, expansion of tropical diseases to temperate latitudes, and increased flooding. And yet many of my fellow EEB (ecology and evolutionary biology) grad students felt that the direct loss of life was a pittance in comparison with the indirect effects of global warming, such as the loss of ecosystem services caused by the devastation of the natural world and the social turmoil associated with the inundation of the many millions of homes by the rising oceans.
There are three paradoxes to the politics of global change, which together can only lead to the conclusion that the US government’s stance is horrendously unjust. The Bush stance to which I’m referring is the recent decision to withdraw completely from negotiations for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. By this international treaty, the Clinton administration had agreed to limit US emissions of CO2–the largest anthropogenic contributor to global warming–to 7% less than 1990 levels by 2007. Bush’s decision directly contradicted an explicit campaign promise to limit national emissions of air pollutants including carbon dioxide. This monumental decision enraged EU leaders and humiliated EPA director (ex-NJ Governor) Christie Whitman, who had just stated publicly that Bush would implement the Kyoto Protocol.
The first paradox is that Bush’s justification of the decision is that the Protocol is unfair to US because it does not explic…
… spend thousands of dollars to prevent their children contracting malaria as the plasmodium-carrying mosquitoes spread North? And what are we going to tell the many millions of Bangladeshis who will soon lose their lowland communities? I am going to tell them that I am deeply sorry, and that I fought the good fight. I will tell them that I refused to act as an apologist for indefensible American policies. I will tell them that I refused to partake in discussion of the finer points of emissions trading or carbon sink credits without first pointing out that the very basis for discussion is deeply unjust. This Earth Day, I am making a resolution not to legitimize Bush’s despicable climate change position by accepting the paradoxical assumptions upon which it is based. I invite you to join me–for the sake of future generations and disenfranchised people everywhere.