Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Global Warming: A Responsibility?

Like in all science a moral reason to do something is not a sufficient reason (assuming the absence of universal morals). I want to dismiss any moral argument from global warming when working with the science of the situation.

We often here about global warming these days from all avenues of media. It is a popular subject, and everyone generally has an opinion on it.

Some people believe that it is the one of the foremost environmental issues of our time, threatening many species on this planet and it demands our utmost attention.

Other people believe that it is not that big of a deal and that it is a natural phenomenon present in the geological record. They argue that our current records are an inadequate representation due to only consisting of a comparatively minuscule amount of time.

And some people just flat out deny it entirely.

In order to make sense of it all, what I want to ask is: Why does it matter?

To start with I’m going to stress that I fully believe that global temperature fluctuation is part of the ecology of our planet. The issue at heart is not whether global warming exists but whether our behaviour has accelerated the process.

To this end there is enough evidence for me to believe that it is entirely plausible that human activity can accelerate global warming. So what?

The argument here is that changing the global temperature has widespread consequences to life on this planet. Yes, the ecology of the planet changes over time and many species adapt. But are we forcing change at a rate that most species can’t keep up with?

It has been suggested by some that we are on the verge of the next great extinction, events that are often marked by ‘sudden’ shifts in global ecology in which the majority of species don’t have time to adapt to change. The difference being this time we are the cause.

So the ‘why care’ of it is a matter of accountability. Does knowledge beget responsibility? This is an entirely moral judgement. At face value most people would concede that it does I would imagine.

Accountability is arguably socially cohesive, ignorance of doing wrong is one thing, but when actively doing something we expect people to be responsible for their actions.

So we should be accountable for human accelerated global warming. Right?  Not necessarily. That would assume there are universal morals, a theory I do not prescribe to for entirely nihilistic reasons.

At best we make conscious choices about how we want things to be. There is no absolute imperative as to whether we should care about global warming. We can choose to care though, for multiple reasons (a point I will address in upcoming posts).

Many supports and deniers are quite passionate about their position and their reasons. Something which I believe needs to be entirely avoided.

The point I want to make at this time is we should be mindful of scientific (or scientific-like) arguments that appeals to a value judgement or emotion. Good science should be objective and impartial. All angles need to be addressed not just those that meet an agenda or satisfy an emotion.

And some of the questions that need to be asked can be ethically confronting. Such as: does it matter if the human race negatively affects species diversity?

With this in mind global warming needs to be seen as making a choice about what we want the future to be. It is not about having responsible for our actions because it is the right thing to do for its own sake. But rather whether we choose to make it a right action or not.



Climate Council, 2015, Australian attitudes to climate change, retrieved 23 April 2016, <;.

FatalityX963, 2008, Global Warming, retrieved 23 April 2016, <;.

Kruszelnicki, K 2014, Global warming ‘pause’ cherry picks the facts, retrieved 23 April 2016, <;.

NASA, 2016, Global Climate Change: Vital signs of the Planet, retrieved 23 April 2016, <;.




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This entry was posted on April 24, 2016 by in Geelong - Wednesday 3pm.

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