Professors Discuss Climate Change Ethics at International Gathering in Qatar

Two members of the Center recently spoke at an international gathering about the ethics of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “It is increasingly clear that the ambitiousness of the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions depends on the extent to which countries perceive the final result as fair,” said Distinguished Professor and Center CoDirector John C. Dernbach as he spoke at “Asking Governments Questions about Their Positions on Justice and Equity: Linking Ambition to Equity,” a side event held at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar on December 5th during the annual conference of the parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The U.S. is one of the 194 parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change, which sets a goal of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the climate system.

In order to achieve the Convention’s ultimate goal of limiting climate change, the participating countries need to agree on how much each country can emit.

“A national commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is implicitly a commitment to a particular atmospheric stabilization level. It is also implicitly a statement about what that country’s fair share of emissions is. Both of these have deep ethical implications because they affect the level of harm that people will experience from climate change,” said Widener Law Scholar in Residence Donald Brown, who specializes in ethics and climate change. Brown presented fifteen questions that should be asked of governments about the ethical basis for their position regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The questions covered subjects such as equity, duties and obligations to vulnerable nations, and historical emissions.

To see a complete list of the questions, read Qatar: Questions That Governments Should Be Asked About Their Positions on Equity and Justice on Brown’s blog, Ethics and Climate.

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