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Climate Change

  1. Stephen M. Gardiner

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee355

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Gardiner, S. M. 2013. Climate Change. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


For some time, and especially over the last two decades, scientists have been warning that humanity is carrying out a giant geophysical experiment by pumping large volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as byproducts of fossil fuel use and deforestation (Weart 2003). Such activity is already affecting the world's climate, and if current trends continue, looks likely to do so increasingly in the future, potentially leading to catastrophic impacts on human and natural systems (IPCC 2007). As a result, scientists have been calling for cuts in anthropogenic emissions in carbon dioxide, the main culprit, of between 50 and 80 percent in coming decades. However, despite this, both global emissions and those of most major countries have been increasing. From 1990 to 2005, global emissions rose by almost 30 percent, and US emissions by just over 20 percent (Marland et al. 2008). Moreover, prior to the global financial crisis, the rate of growth had been accelerating in a way previously unanticipated, from an average of 1.5–2 percent per annum in the late 1990s to nearly 3 percent in 2007. As the Washington Post put it late in 2008, “The rise in global carbon dioxide emissions last year outpaced international researchers’ most dire projections” (Eilperin 2008).


  • ethics;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • climate;
  • future generations;
  • global warming;
  • human rights;
  • justice;
  • rights;
  • risk;
  • sustainability