Climate change is a very real, dangerous, and rapidly worsening problem with deep moral and ethical implications. The International Energy Agency in May said that CO2 emissions in 2010 were the highest in history. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have now risen to levels that are precariously close to pushing global temperatures beyond 2º C (3.6 º F). Bold and decisive action is needed to prevent temperatures from rising to this tragic and potentially irreversible level.
The U.S. has failed to take aggressive action on climate change in large part because the issue has been framed around economic self-interest: opponents of action claim that the costs to jobs and the economy are too high; proponents of action claim emission reductions will create jobs and be good for the economy.
Missing from this debate is the deeply disturbing moral and ethical implications of climate change. In early 2011, a group of 27 people representing conservative and liberal organizations and constituencies from across the nation came together to form the Climate Ethics Campaign. The campaign seeks to make clear to leaders at every level of society that when deciding if or how to respond to climate change we must acknowledge and act on our nation’s long held moral and ethical principles: to protect current and future generations from unjustifiable suffering and death, to act in a just and equitable manner, and to protect the Earth’s natural systems that support all life, including ours.
Acting on these moral and ethical principles requires that the U.S. rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for climate change, help the people most impacted here and abroad respond to the impacts, and support policies to achieve those goals.
The campaign steering committee has written a ‘Statement of our Nation's Moral Responsibility to Address Climate Change.’ Because climate change affects everyone, we are now seeking signatures of endorsement on the statement from Republicans and Democrats as well as conservatives, moderates, liberals and all other leaders from the public, private, academic, and non-profit sectors nationwide. It will be released to President Obama, Congress, each governor, key leaders within the private sector, and the media in the fall.
Following the release of the statement, the campaign will assist organizations, sectors and communities nationwide to continually insist that when making decisions about energy use, emission reductions, or climate preparedness and adaptation our moral obligations must hold equal or greater weight to economic or national self-interest.