The Cost of Climate Change

Dec 18, 2009

This short clip on ethics asks: Is climate change a common public burden, or should individuals make their own choices? Globally do modernized countries have an obligation to developing countries?

Assume that climate change is real, but what about the costs? Correcting the problems is expensive.

There are two sets of costs. New costs come from new technologies and processes. Renewable energy requires subsidizes until economies of scale can bring down price. Buildings need to become green, but owners can't afford refitting. Transportation networks must become efficient and clean. Et cetera.

These are the social costs of moving to a new paradigm. Within societies, they involve difficult and necessary ethical choices regarding taxes, markets, winners, and losers.

A second set of costs relates to global fairness.

The developed world wants to retain a life style, which evolved under energy abundance and without climate constraints. America's great Eastern forests were cut for farmland. European and Japanese industrial plants covered the sky with smoke and soot. The dream was one car, then two, in every household.

Today Brazilians want land for crops. Indians want to industrialize. Chinese dream of cars. Zambians need food.

The developing world sees a dramatic disadvantage. They have to industrialize and modernize, and they have to absorb the new social costs, doubling demands.

Industrial countries provide some aid, but the third world wants more.

So, the new paradigm brings new costs to each society and costs regarding global fairness.

What do you think? In each society is climate change a common public burden, or should individuals make their own choices? Globally do modernized countries have an obligation? Who bears the cost of climate change?

By William Vocke

You may also like

DEC 9, 2021 Podcast

Ethics, Governance, and Emerging Technologies: A Conversation with the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G) and Artificial Intelligence & Equality Initiative (AIEI)

Emerging technologies with global impact are creating new ungoverned spaces at a rapid pace. In this critical moment, frameworks and approaches to govern these technologies, ...

AUG 27, 2021 Journal

Ethics & International Affairs Volume 35.2 (Summer 2021)

The highlight of this issue is a roundtable organized by Adrian Gallagher on the responsibility to protect in a changing world order. The roundtable contains ...

FEB 13, 2020 Podcast

Who Controls the Global Thermostat? with C2G's Janos Pasztor

With record-breaking winter warmth in Europe, catastrophic fires in Australia, and deadly flooding in Indonesia, we are deep into a climate crisis. In this wide-ranging ...