International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 36, Issue 1, Spring 2022

Yixin Chen
Pages 1-14

The Ethics of Climate Change

Massive consumption of fossil energy since the Industrial Revolution has contributed to carbon dioxide emissions and accumulation. That, in turn, has led to global climate change, which is mainly characterized by warming. The necessity of immediate climate action can be justified from both moral and self-interest perspectives. Achieving the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goal of getting the world to net-zero carbon by 2050 depends on undermining the libertarian and self-interested arguments that opponents have against trying to reach this goal. First, from an ethical perspective, these opponents wrongly set the free market against the welfare state and individual property rights against the redistribution of social wealth, ignoring the possibility that their own ideal of liberty might require a welfare system. Second, it is also possible to show that morality and self-interest go together here, requiring us to reduce carbon use right now.