The Moral Perspective On Global Warming

Over at the Acton Institute’s Power Blog, Jordan J. Ballor discussed the moral aspects of global warming and his thoughts are intriguing. In The Moral Calculus of Climate Change, he discusses why humans are blamed for global warming when the sun is the source of the heat. Because people are the only moral force in the equation. The sun, the earth, CO2, and a myriad of other objects are amoral objects. Humans are the only force in the equation with a moral aspect.

Hence the equating of pollution with sin.

“[O]nly a finite number of causes [for global warming], perhaps in most cases a single cause, can have any moral relevance. For a cause to be a moral cause, it has to have be related to a moral agent. So, for instance, if the earth is warming, one of the contributing causes is the energy output of the sun. Since the sun isn’t a moral agent (as far as I know), solar activity isn’t a moral cause of climate change.

“But if human activity is changing the makeup of the earth’s atmosphere so that it retains relatively more of the solar output of energy, that’s a cause that has moral relevance. Even though the sun’s activity is a prior cause (both logically and temporally) to any human activity, only human activity has any moral bearing. This might be a major reason why folks in not only policy circles, but also in more popular discourse, tend to focus on what humans are or are not doing that is affecting the climate.”

Definitely a good read.

4 thoughts on “The Moral Perspective On Global Warming”

  1. Interesting. I assume the natural conclusion would be to say that if global warming is occurring by natural, amoral causes it is no longer a moral issue. Of course that conclusion is based on a faulty assumption that there is no greater morality than man and his thoughts. Of course if there is a greater morality it could keep us accountable and perhaps use natural events to do it. There are so many faulty assumptions with global warming, though it is extremely difficult to treat it with sane reasonable thought. It seems to me that global warming philosophy is based in a naturalistic world-view and as such cannot be looked at as a subject unto itself.

  2. Thanks for the comments Josh. I do believe I see and agree with your point, to an extent. However, if the primary cause is an amoral agent (ie. the sun), and any amount the moral agents contribute towards the overall “problem” (assuming there is one) is infinitesimally small, and any changes the moral agents would make would have a correspondingly infinitesimally small impact on the overall problem, and those same changes will cause additional moral harm to additional moral agents, are the actions by those moral agents therefore immoral?
    I would submit they are.
    This is not assuming that man and his thoughts are the greatest moral authority. This is assuming there is a greater authority who judges man and his thoughts, the authority who created man a moral being.

  3. This is a twist, a little bit of the Moral argument to humuliate people into adherence. Maybe the moral component of this is Judgment. Didn’t God say he wouldn’t bring a flood again as judgment but fire? ………steve

  4. Let’s try and figure that math to that one steve:

    How long, at present temperature increases (we can use the Global Warming Nut’s highest numbers for this hypothetical) would it take for the temperatures to reach the point of spontaneous combustion of the majority of earths surface material?

Leave a Reply