Training Video for Climate Change Advocates Demonstrating How to Ask Questions of Those Who Oppose Climate Change Policies on the Grounds of Excessive Costs or Scientific Uncertainty to Expose Ethical Problems with these Arguments
The list of questions referenced in the video follows:
Questions to be asked of those opposing government action on climate change on the basis of cost to the economy, cost to specific industries, or job destruction.
When you argue that governments should not adopt policies to reduce ghg emissions to their fair share of safe global emissions on the basis that climate policies will impose unacceptable costs on national economies, destroy specific industries, or kill jobs:
- Do you deny high-emitting nations not only have economic interests but also duties and obligations to nations and people most vulnerable to climate impacts to limit their ghg emissions to their fair share of safe global emissions?
- Do you deny that a high emitting nation needs to take responsibility for the harms to human health and ecological systems on which life depends which the nation is causing in other nations
- Do you deny the applicability of the well-established international norm that polluters should pay for consequences of their pollution?
- Do you agree that a nation’s climate change policy is implicitly a position on how high atmospheric concentrations of ghgs should be allowed to rise?
- Do you agree that a national ghg emissions target must be understood as implicitly a position on a global emissions reduction pathway necessary to stabilize atmospheric ghg concentrations at safe levels?
- Do you agree that no nation has a right kill other people or destroy the ecological systems on which life depends simply because reducing ghg emissions will impose costs on the high-emitting nation?
- Do you agree that nations which emit ghgs at levels beyond their fair share of safe global emissions have a duty to help pay for reasonable adaptation needs and unavoidable damages of low-emitting vulnerable countries and individuals who have done little to cause climate change?
- Do you agree that the costs of inaction on climate change must be considered by nations who refuse to reduce their ghg emissions to their fair share of safe global emissions on the basis of cost to them?\
- Given that the United States has for over twenty-five years failed to adequately respond to climate change because of alleged unacceptable costs to it and that due to delay ghg emissions reductions now needed to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change are much steeper and costly than what would be required if the United States acted twenty-five years ago, is it just for the United States to now defend further inaction on climate change on the basis of cost
Questions to be asked of those opposing national action on climate change on the basis of scientific uncertainty.
When you argue that nations such as the United States or states, regional, or local governments, businesses, organizations, or individuals that emit high levels of greenhouse gases (ghg) need not reduce their ghg emissions to their fair share of safe global emission because of scientific uncertainty about adverse climate change impacts:
- On what specific basis do you disregard the conclusions of the United States Academy of Sciences and over a hundred of the most prestigious scientific organizations whose membership includes those with expertise relevant to the science of climate change, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Physics, the American Meteorological Society, the Royal Meteorological Society, and the Royal Society of the UK and according to the American Academy of Sciences 97 percent of scientists who actually do peer-reviewed research on climate change which conclusions holds that the Earth is warming, that the warming is mostly human caused, and that harsh impacts from warming are already being experienced in parts of the world, and that the international community is running out of time to prevent catastrophic warming.
- Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there are some remaining scientific uncertainties about climate change impacts, are you arguing that no action of climate change should be taken until all scientific uncertainties are resolved given that waiting to resolve uncertainties before action is taken will virtually guarantee that it will too late to prevent catastrophic human-induced climate change harms to people and ecological systems around the world?
- Given that waiting until uncertainties are resolved will make climate change harms worse and the scale of reductions needed to prevent dangerous climate change much more daunting, do you deny that those who are most vulnerable to climate change’s harshest potential impacts have a right to participate in any decision about whether a nation should wait to act to reduce the threat of climate change because of scientific uncertainty?
- Should a nation like the United States which has much higher historical and per capita emissions than other nations be able to justify its refusal to reduce its ghgemissions to its fair share of safe global emissions on the basis of scientific uncertainty, given that if the mainstream science is correct, the world is rapidly running out of time to prevent warming above 2.Oo C, a temperature limit which if exceeded may cause rapid, non-linear climate change.
- If you claim that there is no evidence of human causation of climate change are you aware that there are multiple “fingerprint” studies and “attribution” studies which point to human causation of observed warming?
- When you claim that the United States or other nations emitting high levels of ghgs need not adopt climate change policies because adverse climate change impacts have not yet been proven, are you claiming that climate change skeptics have proven in peer reviewed scientific literature that human-induced climate change will not create harsh adverse impacts to the human health and the ecological systems of others on which their life often depends and if so what is that proof?
- If you concede that climate skeptics have not proven in peer-reviewed journals that human-induced warming is not a very serious threat to human health and ecological systems, given that human-induced warming could create catastrophic warming the longer the human community waits to respond to reduce the threat of climate change and the more difficult it will be to prevent dangerous warming, do you agree that those responsible for rising atmospheric ghg concentrations have a duty to demonstrate that their ghg emissions are safe?
- Given that in ratifying the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the United States in 1992 agreed under Article 3 of that treaty to not use scientific uncertainty as an excuse for postponing climate change policies, do you believe the United States is now free to ignore this promise by refusing to take action on climate change on the basis of scientific uncertainty? Article 3 states:The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.(UNFCCC, Art 3)
- Do agree if a government is warned by some of the most prestigious scientific institutions in the world that activities within its jurisdiction are causing great harm to and gravely threatening hundreds of millions of people outside their government’s jurisdiction, government officials who could take steps to assure that activities of their citizens do not harm or threaten others should not be able escape responsibility for preventing harm caused by simply declaring that they are not scientists?
- If a nation such as the United States which emits high-levels of ghgs refuses to reduce its emissions to its fair share of safe global emissions on the basis that is too much scientific uncertainty to warrant action, if it turns out that human-induced climate change actually seriously harms the health of tens of millions of others and ecological systems on which their life depends, should the nation be responsible for the harms that could have been avoided if preventative action had been taken earlier?
Comments are welcome. see the comment form below
Donald A. Brown
Scholar In Residence and Professor
Widener University Commonwealth Law School
Summary of Project’s First and Second Phases and Call for Researchers for Second Phase
This site contains reports from 23 nations examined in the first and second phase of this project on the extent to which national debates and nations have considered or ignored ethics and justice issues in formulating national climate change policies.
Climate change is a problem that screams for attention as being understood essentially as a problem of ethics and justice, a fact which has profound significance for national climate change policy development but a fact which our research has concluded is largely being ignored by most nations.
The project seeks to help deepen reflection by nations and civil society on national responses to climate change through examining national climate change policies through an ethical, justice, equity lens.
If nations fail to base their climate change policies on what ethics and justice require of them on mitigation of their greenhouse gas emissions and funding for adaptation, losses, and damages, then the global response to climate change will not be ambitious enough to avoid catastrophic climate impacts while deepening existing injustices in the world.
A summary of lessons learned from the first and second phase of the project are available above under the tab “lessons learned.”
Some of the national reports from the first phase of the project are available on this website and others are contained in the following new free book which has been published by the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, Ethics Specialist Group, This book contains reports on the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Russia, China, South Africa, South Korea, Kenya, Italy, Japan, Bolivia, Thailand, and Uganda. The book is:
Ethics and Climate Change: A Study of National Commitments
Electronic copies are free for download here. The download URL is : http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/iucn_eplp_86_advanced_copy.pdf
At the completion of the second phase of the project, reports are available from the following countries. Argentina , Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada , China, Fiji , India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Samoa, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Uganda, United States of America, and Zimbabwe
Comments on these reports should be sent to Prue Taylor and Donald A. Brown at the above emails. We actively seek comments on these reports. We recognize that any report published in this project may be incomplete because national positions on these issues are rapidly changing over time. We therefore actively solicit comments and corrections to these reports.
The reports on this website are attributable to the researchers who are identified in each report. We thank the researchers for their work.