Ethics in climate change: A climate scientist’s perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There are many dimensions to a look at ethics in climate change, the underlying science and the responses to societal challenges. The rapid changes occurring in the Earth’s climate are impacting every part of our lives, economically, culturally and physically, and these are driving concerns about vulnerability, equity and justice. The good news is that the science is providing a clear message – climate change is one of the most important issues facing humanity and our planet. There is basically no debate about this conclusion any longer within the science community; this understanding is data-driven, based on extensive observations and associated analyses using many different research tools. Science shows that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming and other major changes in the Earth’s climate since at least the mid-twentieth century. However, that doesn’t keep misinformation and overstatement of remaining uncertainties from appearing in the news, social media or in various blogs, but to do so requires distortions and misrepresentations of the science, or refutation of the underlying premises for basic physics. Denial of climate change and why it is occurring adds its own ethical dimension. Finally, there are major ethical dilemmas complicating the debate of how to respond to the continuing changes in climate. How do we balance the rights and responsibilities of the developed and developing nations of our planet? How do we sort out the possible use of geoengineering approaches that are being proposed to reduce or reverse climate change and/or its adverse societal impacts? How do we assess our responsibility to future generations for the actions we take today and the resulting changes in climate they must live with? These are complex considerations requiring solutions that meet the needs of humanity across its many dimensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGeological Society Special Publication
PublisherGeological Society of London
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameGeological Society Special Publication
ISSN (Print)0305-8719

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology


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