PSU Rock Ethics Institute, Collaborative Program on Ethical Dimensions

October 25, 2007

University Park, Pa. – In an effort to provide the latest ethical commentary on climate change issues around the globe, a new web site, ClimateEthics.org (http://climateethics.org), sponsored by the Penn State Rock Ethics Institute, has been launched in conjunction with the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change (EDCC).

EDCC says the site creates a platform for quick response to the ethical dimensions of a wide range of issues currently in contention in the climate change debate. The organization, an international cooperative program of applied ethics institutions and individuals exploring ethical dimensions of climate change polices, works under the auspices of the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University (http://rockethics.psu.edu/climate/index.htm).

"Climate change poses historically unprecedented challenges and profound ethical questions," says Nancy Tuana, director of the Rock Ethics Institute and professor of philosophy, "but also new opportunities for global innovation and cooperation. ClimateEthics.org will be an important resource for realizing these opportunities."

ClimateEthics.org will tap the insights of a broad range of experts, including scientists and economists, to keep abreast of current debate as well as the ethical significance of emerging scientific understanding of climate change and proposed laws and policies targeting climate change, according to EDCC project coordinator Donald A. Brown, associate professor of environmental ethics, science, and law at Penn State.

By enabling policy makers, researchers and other interested members of the public to quickly and easily access ethical commentary, Brown says, the site will foster better understanding of the myriad ethical issues entailed by climate change.

"Policy makers must understand that every approach to climate change may raise different ethical dimensions," says Brown. "That better understanding can allow them to craft policies that are ethically supportable and seen as just by others around the world who must cooperate in a global solution to climate change."

The EDCC also cites two crucial reasons for a larger comprehension of ethical implications within the research community. First, it says, scientists and economists must realize that their standard disciplinary approaches to climate change may not adequately deal with ethical considerations. Secondly, ethical questions raised by climate change will drive scientific and economic research.

If, for example, ethical analysis leads to the conclusion that the world needs to set a greenhouse gas atmospheric target at the lowest possible level, scientific and economic research must determine how to practically achieve this goal at the lowest cost.

"Climate change raises thorny ethical issues," says Brown, “because the obligation to reduce the threat of climate change stems not only from personal and national interests, but also from responsibilities to others all over the world."

He adds, "People must consider how their use of energy or forest resources not only can threaten their own interests but also the life and safety of billions of others who live far away. Fair apportionment of safe global emissions is not simply a matter of charity. It's an ethical obligation."

The site currently features several recent articles on ethical evaluations of alternative energy strategies. Users may post comments to the articles, which will be reviewed to ensure relevance.

The White Paper on The Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change, released by EDCC at the 2006 climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Nairobi, is available at the Rock Ethics web site at http://rockethics.psu.edu/climate/whitepaper-intro.htm.

Last Updated July 28, 2017