On our Climate Ethics blog one can find several posts arguing that national and international discussions of what ought to be done in response to climate change need to be oriented by ethical or moral considerations. The ‘oughts’ that stem from considerations of political expediency and economic self-interest, whatever their appeal to certain influential sectors of our society, cannot provide conclusive answers to the questions about social justice and responsibility for harm to others that are raised by a critical look at our patterns of consumption.
Articles like this one from yesterday’s New York Times suggest a very different strategy. Apparently, we can hope to influence behaviors in certain communities only if we, first, leave out any reference to climate change and, then, appeal to things like religious duties and economic advantages.
Imagine that you are hired by Green Energy Inc. to consult on a strategy for getting people in your community to switch to cleaner, more sustainable, forms of energy. What would you do? Would you stress issues of social justice and personal responsibility, or opt instead to appeal to religious duties and self-interest? Why?
Imagine that each strategy was capable of bringing about the same amount of positive change. Would it matter at all what it was that motivated people to make these changes?