A Perspective On History Essay Example
Climate change is an enormous challenge facing the world. It is a multi-dimensional problem, throwing up a vast array of ethical conundrums. One such issue that has ethical implications is the issue of human rights in the realm of climate change (UNESCO, p. 14).
International instruments guarantee human rights, including the right to life. Once rights are recognized, it follows that there are a set of duties to be followed by member states to guarantee such rights. Consequently, it is axiomatic that states or individuals should be able to appeal to the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to demand that nations stop activities hastening climate change so as to avoid their rights from getting nullified. Countries like the Maldives are likely to completely go underwater due to rising water levels triggered by global warming. Similarly, 20 million people are likely to be displaced in Bangladesh due to rising sea levels (UNESCO).
Were Bangladesh and Maldives to appeal to the international community to cease all activity hastening climate change so that their citizen’s human rights as agreed to and enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the reaction of the nations of the world would be dependent upon weighing the various ethical issues involved.
The Categorical Imperative of Deontological Ethics
The categorical imperative of Kant stands behind the argument that universal rights and duties must be respected. Once the nations of the world have signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they are duty bound to follow it. There can be no debate about the price to pay. The First Formulation exhorts practitioners of ethics to ‘act according to maxims’ so that principles become Universal Law (Shaw). Seen in the context of the categorical imperatives, it would be logical to expect the nations of the world to recognize the rights of Maldives and Bangladesh and take the necessary steps to halt activities leading to the rising of sea levels.
The ethical principle of utilitarianism does not adhere to principles being written in stone. Utilitarianism stands for the ‘greatest common good’. Any activity entails a modicum of positivity and negativity. If more people are positively affected than negatively, the activity is deemed to be ethical as per utilitarianism (Shaw, p. 43).
In the context of global warming, most of the nations of the world would not be affected by a slight rise in sea levels. The number of people affected by a minimal rise in sea levels would be much lesser than those unaffected. To that extent, most nations of the world would be averse to a sudden halt to all activities leading to global warming. Though global warming and climate change ultimately affect all nations, the nations would be averse to extreme measures as would be necessitated to prevent Maldives and parts of Bangladesh from going under water. Therefore, seen from the prism of utilitarianism, an abrupt halt of industrial activity so as to prevent the submerging of Maldives and parts of Bangladesh would not be an ethical act, due to the disproportionately larger number of people negatively affected in terms of quality of life and means of livelihood by such an action.
When forced to choose between utilitarianism and deontological ethics in this case, I would prefer to choose utilitarianism. The greater common good would be in a gradual switching to greener technology. While such a transition would help most of the world, it certainly would not rescue those at the frontlines of catastrophe –Maldives and Bangladesh. These countries may, therefore, be given aid and support or relocation of affected populations.
Ethical dilemmas have no clear-cut solutions. Leaving Maldives to its fate is akin to leaving behind the concept of humanity itself. However, in the ultimate analysis, pragmatism is required to tackle complex conundrums. Utilitarianism requires that the welfare of the majority of the countries be considered. The option of aid and support for relocation, on the other hand, borrows from deontological ethics. Thus, the final solution suggested is a mix of both utilitarianism and deontological ethics.
Shaw, William H. Business Ethics. Boston, MA: Cengage. 2014. Print.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Ethical Implications of Global Climate Change. Paris. 2010. Web. 03 Feb 2015.
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