University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > The Cultures of Climate Change > The Climate Crunch: Ethics, Ecology and the End of Civilisation

The Climate Crunch: Ethics, Ecology and the End of Civilisation

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Greenhouse gas emissions from the last one hundred years of fossil-fueled industrial capitalism will result in significant warming of the planet by the middle of the present century. Despite attempts by the UK government and other nations to reduce their domestic gas emissions, present international legal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is not working because it relies on dubious market mechanisms such as carbon emissions trading and pollution permit auctions. The moral case for a new international law regulating fossil fuel supply is very strong. Millions in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are already at risk from the effects of global warming – whether increased flooding or sustained drought and crop failure.

Many in the climate justice movement are turning to nonviolent direct action to seek to persuade governments of the immorality of their continued use of fossil fuels. Many others are seeking to commit their households and communities locally to a transition to a low carbon future seeking to exemplify in their own lives the ecological virtues of justice, prudence and thrift. Low carbon gives people back moral responsibility for the energy that fuels their lives and this in turn returns moral agency and political power to citizens and householders. But for it to become a societal movement will involve a dramatic shift from the present debt-fueled growth-oriented economics that has directed government, corporate and consumer activities for the past sixty years. To achieve this will likely require a recovery of a moral and spiritual vision of the nature of life on earth, and of human destiny in a cosmos that people of faith for thousands of years have understood as divinely originated.

This talk is part of the The Cultures of Climate Change series.

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