In my final semester at my previous college, I had to write a policy paper on how to address a major global issue, and I chose to work on major carbon emitters. As I read through the many academic journal articles on reducing carbon emissions, I saw that many in the academic community try to address the ethics of people benefitting from the hard work and/or suffering of others.
The academic pieces that I was reading sympathized with those who would have to sacrifice their global economy or their standards of living. They sympathized with them so much that the authors seemed to understand the current generation if they would not do anything to save the lives of future generations.
However, there is an opposing popular sentiment that contradicts this. For example, we have people such as Greta Thunberg, who demand the government to make a drastic change because global inaction on climate change is encroaching on the rights and liberties of younger and future generations.
I agree with the notion that it is incredibly unfair for people to reap the benefits of others’ labor (group projects, anyone?). However, I do not believe that this argument translates well to our climate crisis.
You see, the survival of the human race is in the balance; therefore, I do not see the issue with saving the planet for others.
I think arguing against saving the planet for future generations makes more sense in increasingly individualistic societies. When the priority is taking care of “Number 1”, the focus is not so much on the community, nor is it so much on the people coming to the world after you. If I want to care for myself now, I do not want to make drastic change for people who haven’t shown that they deserve it.
I do not think similarly to this because when it comes to the following generations, the first thing I think about is my possible descendants. I want my grandchildren to be able to exist. I want my own potential children to be able to have the same opportunity as I have to live full lives. I believe that they have a right to life as much as I do. From an ethical perspective, most parents will do anything for their children. As potential parents of the future, we should start taking decisive action.
However, it can actually seem as clear as mud. Something that I have not addressed yet is the issue of developing countries. This whole time, I have been speaking from a developed world perspective. I have grown up in a country that has a first world standard of living and an economy that would not be possible without electricity, which is typically powered by fossil fuel energy.
It is much easier for a developed country to say, “We should all try to staunch the further development of fossil fuel generated energy,”than it is for countries whose people cannot even afford lights in their homes.
My profound opinion is to truly reverse the effects of climate change, we need to sacrifice not only for future generations, but for those unable to in our current generation. This means investing in the clean energy development in second and third world countries. If we do not do this, these countries and their peoples will either go against reducing carbon emissions, or they are left behind, unable to catch up in development of their economy, their infrastructure, etc.
Is it ethical to live your life without paying your dues? To live and to accumulate more indebtedness, knowing that your children or someone else will inherit it? If we choose to not pay the costs of halting climate change, someone must pay the price in the possibly near future. With the foreseeable extinction of the human race (and the other creatures who roam our beautiful planet), we must do whatever we can to ensure that does not happen, even if that means we need to support developing countries. I say we need to pay our debts… before it is too late.