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« Myles, Roger, and Chris hit Rotterdam | Main | Academic science: not fit for purpose »

Climate change...ethics?

The GWPF has a new and, in my opinion, very important paper out on the subject of climate change and ethics. Here's the press release:

London, 16 December: A new paper by Dr Peter Lee and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation explores many of the ethical disputes that characterise climate science and policy in the twenty-first century.
“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message… Leaders must act.” These words by Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, welcomed the latest IPCC Report as certain and indisputable.

But actions require choices to be made – each with economic and often overlooked ethical dimensions – and the uncertainties involved are greater than Ban Ki-moon and many of the IPCC authors publicly acknowledge.

A new paper by Dr Peter Lee and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation explores many of the ethical disputes that characterise climate science and policy in the twenty-first century.

Dr Lee is a lecturer in Ethics and Political Theory at the University of Portsmouth and the author of Truth Wars: The Politics of Climate Change, Military Intervention and Financial Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan).

Dr Lee shows that ethical considerations have arisen and continue to arise at every stage of the climate debate, from climate science to the current and future implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. 

“In a field characterised by extensive uncertainty a combination of good intentions and ill-informed policies can result in damaging unintended outcomes for humans and for the natural environment alike,” Dr Lee said.

“Democratic consent to whatever is decided will not be forthcoming if the climate debate is not engaged in the depth which Dr Lee demonstrates is necessary,” writes the Rt Revd Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, in the foreword.
Full paper (pdf)


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Reader Comments (34)

To illustrate how low standards have fallen in climate science, Michael Mann has been selected to give a speech on ethics.

Dec 16, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, has an interesting article on the Lee paper, also on the GWPF website.

Dec 16, 2014 at 12:08 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

We Need to Talk About Green NGOs…
"NGOs are weird. And green NGOs are even weirder. Even at face value they are weird, precisely because we are supposed to take them and the issues they seemingly speak for at face value, as plainly as we would take the Campaign for the Abolition of Stubbed Toes (CAST) which doesn’t exist yet. But give it time.
But take a step back from your concern for people with stubbed toes, and outrage about toe-stubbing. Who said CAST speak for us? Who appointed them? Who said they should raise awareness of stubbed toes? And why should their demand of action against stubbed toes be taken seriously by politicians, who were elected by us, to represent our concerns? This is the question that no NGO can answer: who the **** do NGOs think they are?" We need to talk about Green NGOs!

It moves onto greener subjects, including comments from Donna Laframboise, Survival International and a view from the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, even Stern gets a mention.

Dec 16, 2014 at 12:19 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Never forget, people, that it was the very same United Nations of which Ban Ki-Moon is Secretary General, that set up the IPCC with the SOLE purpose of PROVING that man-made CO2 emissions were contributing to global warming.

Can you imagine this scenario..? 'Nope - nothing to do with it. Please send our P45s by return...'

Who was it famously said (its somewhere in my Boys' Bumper Book of Quotes): 'Never set up an inquiry without knowing the outcome...'

Dec 16, 2014 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

It is every persons human right, to proclaim themself a climate scientist, demand a taxpayer funded salary, .and advocate all manner of regressive policies, on the assumption that we will all fry otherwise. All based on scientific theories, not matched by real observations, of actual climate, on the real planet earth.

Is there an ethical problem?

Dec 16, 2014 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Marginally off-topic but relevant nevertheless:

Isn't it delicious to see all the alarums and excurtions which $55/barrel oil is causing..?

Dec 16, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

I think that was Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Dec 16, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Dunford

Peter Dunford - I think you're right - but I also think that was based on a quote from an ACTUAL politician..!

Dec 16, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

crap science: crap policy.

Lee says it better.

Dec 16, 2014 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

It was really good of the BBC, to have 2 news crews out in the Phillipines last week, to report on the death and destruction, caused by the "climate changed super tropical storm", during the Lima conference.

No doubt the BBC and those in Lima, were relieved there were no deaths, otherwise, they would have made headlines during a climate conference.

Dec 16, 2014 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie


...Who was it famously said (its somewhere in my Boys' Bumper Book of Quotes): 'Never set up an inquiry without knowing the outcome...'...

"...Minister, two basic rules of government: Never look into anything you don't have to. And never set up an enquiry unless you know in advance what its findings will be..."

Sir Humphrey Appleby (Permanent Secretary, DAA in 'Yes Minister')

Dec 16, 2014 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

@Golf Charlie

...No doubt the BBC and those in Lima, were relieved there were no deaths, otherwise, they would have made headlines during a climate conference....

"No doubt the BBC and those in Lima, were UNHAPPY there were no deaths, otherwise, they would have made headlines during a climate conference..."

There, fixed that for you...

Dec 16, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

Dodgy Geezer. Many thanks for your assistance but I was not trying to imply that the BBC had spent lots of tax payers money, hoping to report death and destruction to coincide with Lima. That would presume that the BBC and global warming alarmists derived benefit from death, that they were parasitic, to maintain their existence.

Dec 16, 2014 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message." Certainly. And the Arctic Ocean is ice-free.

Dec 16, 2014 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

Any chance of a review of the highly regarded (in climate science circles anyway) Lord Nick Sterns climate change economic report, now that the price of oil has dropped a bit?

Or would it be unethical to point out, that its best use now, would be to burn all copies, in fireplaces, to reduce deaths in winter due to cold.


Dec 16, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Has anyone calculated the calorific value of an IPCC report?

If you can get one sent to you for free, which would be the best to request, and burn?

It would be so useful if these reports about global warming could be used to raise the temperature inside a house by a few degrees.

Dec 16, 2014 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Don B' To illustrate how low standards have fallen in climate science,'

your assuming they have standards , but why would they their total lack of standards . along with morality , has been nothing but profitable for them.

Dec 16, 2014 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

The "ethics and morals" of the climate change issue really are quite simple. If you truly believe that burning heating oil changes the climate while burning wood doesn't, that driving your car to work creates evil carbon dioxide but your bicycling to work doesn't, or rather, significantly less, that having one LED light burning in your room is sufficient to clean house by and live with at night, then you should be morally and ethically bound to live that way. And that is where your "rights" end.

It is immoral for the "greens" in the western world to believe that they need to suppress growth in the undeveloped world because of perceived climate change. It is NOT immoral for those living in an undeveloped world trying to better themselves to use the readily available resources to upgrade their existence.

However, every "green," no matter where they live, should be doing everything in their power to fight the scourge of Carbon Dioxide, if that truly is what they believe. They should willingly park their cars, never approach an airport, cook their meals over dried cow dung, light their homes with candles or better still, go to bed with the Sun, thus they have no need for lights. Live their beliefs and sacrifice their present for their perceived future.

After 5 years, they will either see that the world has understood their beliefs and sacrifices and will join them, or they will see the errors of their own ways. But jetting off to vacation/business meetings in faraway countries to get together with other "like minded people" that they could have interacted with via teleconference only proves that they don't believe what the say, thus they have no morals or ethics.

Dec 16, 2014 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom O

Only one thing to say.

"Green" = sanctimonious hypocrite.

Dec 16, 2014 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&twisted

"Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message… Leaders must act.” Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General.

Indeed, there is absolutely no ambiguity in terms like 'death train' or 'denier', or images of exploding heads in school children.
The inspiring stuff of Green leadership. /sarc

Dec 16, 2014 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

To my knowledge the "IPCC consensus" does not mean that fossil fuels must remain in the ground, as the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster seems to believe

Dec 16, 2014 at 9:16 PM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

Troll and responses removed.

Dec 16, 2014 at 9:32 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Even when otherwise mature individuals are able to properly identify what is desirable, they most often remain childlike when it comes to the evaluation of the actual possibility of its realization.

Dec 16, 2014 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Troll and responses removed.
Bah, humbug!

Dec 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

EM starts a debate, can't hold his end up. Once again, aTTP receives answers, responds with more questions. Another meaningless fly-by by Richard Betts. What next? Another appearance by ZedsBrainDead! You guys take it in turns.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Dec 16, 2014 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterjolly farmer

Climate science is a strange subject. Despite providing the experts with any skill in their own subject, it seems to provide them with the super-abilities in a vast array of other fields. Ethics is one such area. It has been though about since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks, but the climate experts seem to have cracked the issue without having even reading a book on the various perspectives on the subject.

Dec 16, 2014 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

"'Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message.' Certainly. And the Arctic Ocean is ice-free." --Curious George

And we have always been at war with Eurasia.

Dec 16, 2014 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar
Dec 17, 2014 at 1:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Golf Charlie

A couple re the drop in oil price


Dec 17, 2014 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian

This kind of argumentation is quite important because greens and faux-greens alike genuinely believe the best ethical response to any scare is to ban the substance identified as the culprit. They remain steadfast in their determination not to consider any adverse consequences of such a ban. It is the scenario perfected with fertiliser and insect spray bans. None of them wish to consider even the possibility that 6 million people may have died due to the DDT ban and they have not yet discovered that the recent reduction in malaria deaths coincided with the reintroduction of DDT. Cognitive dissonance is the human condition of believing only what your pre-conceived ideas will allow and right-wingers/industrialists are just as afflicted with this as left-wingers/environmentalists. So how to break down this mental block?

Well Michael Moore wrote that to convince a conservative you don't talk about ethics, you need to talk about saving money. It was not an insult - just practical advice - because conservatives are generally convinced that saving money is the real ethical priority because it allows private prosperity to flourish, which therefore benefits everyone. Using the same logic I presume that to convince a green (perhaps even a faux-green) you have to show them how their idealistic worldview is proven to kill more people, wildlife & trees than it saves. Since a warming world has always been historically better for life on Earth I shouldn't have though that would be too difficult. However cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing. The main problem is, as BH already identified, the realists look at their opponents as merely stupid or short-sighted but the utopian dreamers see their opponents as downright evil and so cannot be believed even if their logic seems sound.

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Ooh, a new paper? Is it published in a peer reviewed journal like any half decent paper worth its salt?

Nah, it couldn't pass peer review, so they just chucked it out on their crank blog. A surefire indicator it's crap, which the few of you who understand the actual process of releasing quality academic papers, are assiduously avoiding mentioning.

Dec 17, 2014 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Why not read the paper yourself, ZDB, and add your own review of it. Or do you prefer others to do your thinking for you?

Dec 17, 2014 at 10:20 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent


Methinks the advice on launching an enquiry is an expansion on the lawyers' canon never to ask a question of a witness without already knowing the answer.

The example was:

"Did you see the accused bite off the ear of Mr. Adams?"


"Well then, how did you know he had done it?"

"I saw him spit it out."

Dec 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterjferguson

A very interesting paper. Have there been any reviews/discussion of it? If the BBC really was a proper news and current affairs department they should get Peter !ee and Mark Maslin onto a programme to discuss their papers/books/ideas and where they agree and disagree. Cannot see that happening!

Dec 19, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterSankaraRichardroman

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