2022 Abstracts Stage 3

In What Way is Humanity Ethically and Politically Responsible for Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Emissions?

Hannah Howlison, 2022, Stage 3

This essay explores the way in which humanity is ethically and politically responsible for anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. After concluding that traditional ethics is no longer sufficient for dealing with environmental and technological ethical issues, Hans Jonas’ proposes a new ethics for this technological age is in his book The Imperative of Responsibility. He argues that the most important ethical rule humanity must follow is to act so that the effects of our actions are compatible with the permanence of life in order to ensure the future of mankind. I use Jonas’ ethics to argue that humanity’s climate responsibility is inescapable; once this responsibility is established I use Giddens’ book The Politics of Climate Change to suggest that harnessing the power of politics and policy is vital for sufficiently meeting the demands that this climate responsibility places on individuals. This essay concludes that, while individuals are the primary drivers of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, a top-down approach whereby the largest organisations and emitters are targeted through policy to reduce emissions may be the most efficient and impactful way of mitigating climate change and ensuring the future of mankind.

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