Skip to content

EHP logoISEE logo

2016 Conference

Abstract Number: ETH-01 | ID: 4805

Climate ethics – what this means for global health after the Paris agreement, 2015

Martin Tondel*, Uppsala University, Sweden, martin.tondel@medsci.uu.se;
Climate ethics includes consideration of justice and values. Justice is concerned with fairness and equity including distributional issues, intergenerational equity, international justice and law. Values are a matter of worth, benefit, or good. Values can sometimes be measured quantitatively e.g. an index of human development or state of human health. Historically, industrialized countries have proportionally emitted more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than emerging economies, thus bearing more responsibility for the global heating. This asymmetry gives rise to questions of moral responsibility for achieving justice and creating a sustainable level of GHG emissions. Intergenerational equity encompasses moral duties owed by present to future generations. Decisions about reducing GHG might promote some values at the expense of others. How to weigh biodiversity against human wellbeing? How and by whom should the burden of mitigating climate change be divided among countries? These are difficult issues of justice, fairness, and rights, all in the sphere of ethics. Three principles of compensatory justice have been suggested: the polluter pays principle (PPP), the beneficiary pays principle (BPP), and the community pays principle (CPP). The PPP seems intuitive, but has its limitations. The emissions took place when people did not know, or could be expected to know, about the harmful consequences. Potential duty bearers may be dead and can therefore not be held to account. According to the BPP those better off are required to compensate those who are worse off. Duties of compensation arise only from past emissions that have benefited the present people. Under CPP, moral duties can be attributed to members of groups whose identity persists over generations. The CPP can therefore include countries with a collective responsibility for the wrongful actions, even though not morally or causally responsible for previous emissions. These challenges will be discussed in the symposium.