There are many things we can choose to do about climate change, including doing nothing at all. All of them have consequences, many of which will be unforeseen. If we could foretell more accurately what would happen to the climate in the future, our choices might be clearer, if not necessarily easier to make. Unfortunately, predicting future climate change is fraught with uncertainty, and we will be forced to make choices in the face of that uncertainty. To what extent are we motivated in this difficult process by a desire to do the “right thing”? And how do we decide what is the right thing to do? The answer to these questions depends on whose ethical interests are considered.
What is best for a Canadian living in the last decade of the twentieth century—even supposing we could discover what that is—might not be best for a Somali, or for our great-grandchildren, or for the rain forest of the Amazon or the kangaroos of Australia. Decisions about what to do about global warming will therefore be influenced by how much relative weight we give to the ethical interests of Canadians, Somalis, grandchildren, rain forests, kangaroos and a host of other variables. Weighing these competing interests is an exercise in applied ethics. This book examines the role that ethics can and should play in our decisions about how to deal with global warming.