Breakfast Time Discussion: Is climate change a moral and ethical issue?

Rachel Mash – Powerpoint from Oxford Diocesan Conference.


Al Gore film Inconvenient Truth – moral imperative – now 10 years old.

Why, given moral and ethical imperative of issue of climate change, has it not resulted in action?

Been dubbed ‘a perfect moral storm’ (Stephen Gardner) that challenges and weakens moral and ethical action:

  1. Global – complex, distant and abstract.
  2. Intergenerational – victims unknown and future.
  3. Theoretical – underdeveloped theoretical tools in areas such as international justice, creation/nature preservation versus exploitation.

How can we engage with issue of climate in an ethical and moral way which brings about action?

  1. Frame issue in language that engages full range of moral values that people hold such as respect for others, loyalty to community etc.
  2. Focus on burdens that are avoided ie. drought, disease.
  3. Motivate action through messages that generate positive emotional responses: hope, pride, gratitude.
  4. Avoid linking action on climate change exclusively to extrinsic motives ie. job growth, economic stability.
  5. Bring faraway victims into individual in-groups.
  6. Highlight widely shared positive social norms ie wasteful.
  7. Spiritual, religious response – holiness and goodness of the earth and careful stewards of the land.      Oxford-closing-remarks