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Ethical challenges in reducing global greenhouse gas emission


Since the Rio Conference in 1992 it has been clear that there a high risk that the world in some decades from now will experience a climate that will be a threat to human life and nature in its present form. Up to the nineties the political world, as well as the general public, regarded the atmosphere as practically unlimited in its capacity to absorb greenhouse gases with no adverse effects. The scientific community, primarily through IPCC, has since confirmed our worst fears and states that at the present rate of global greenhouse emission the global average temperature will reach an increase of two centigrade compared to pre-industrial times within 25 years, meaning that the greenhouse gas emissions from now must be limited to 250 to 300 gigatonnes. This makes the atmosphere a deposit of limited size and a global Common, towards which we all have a responsibility. This paper argues that a reasonable ethical standpoint is that all human beings, of today and of the future, have the same rights and the same responsibility to utilise the atmosphere. In the present situation we must reduce our climate footprint to a tenth of the global average of today if we should ensure a good climate for the future. This paper discusses how the various strategies for emission reductions that are discussed and partly practiced today come out when compared to this ethical position. © 2014 IEEE.(10 refs)


Academic chapter/article/Conference paper





  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • SINTEF Energy Research




Curran Associates, Inc.


2014 IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Science, Technology and Engineering - ETHICS 2014



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