Ethics at the End of the World

We live in a culture where most commercial, industrial, and residential activities have an impact on the environment around us. At the moment you are reading this post, your computer is using electricity most likely produced through coal, or gas-powered processes. Making choices individually that keep the environment in mind has become impossible in the fast-paced society that we live in. In order to collectively fix the social complications that arise when addressing climate change, we must decide collectively to lower our consumption and combustion of resources that have a negative impact on society’s immediate and long-term sustainability. It is not only necessary for governments to implement this collective change, but it must also be a collective change on the global level.

The United Nations has had meetings at least once a year since the first Conference of the Parties (COP) in 1995. In 1997, a document titled The Kyoto Protocol was created that outlined carbon dioxide reductions goals that each country would have to abide by in order to prevent serious climate change from occurring. Nearly two decades later, the United Nations has failed to create a globally ratified document that could be effective in completing these goals. Indeed “the UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report (2013) confirmed that no significant progress has been made in closing this substantial gap between that necessary for a less-than-2⁰C emissions pathway and developed countries’ pre-2020 mitigation commitments.”

However, plans are set into motion to create such a document in 2015 at COP21 in Paris, France. It is necessary that the appropriate preparations are made leading up to this meeting if any consensus is to be made regarding the policies that would then go into effect beginning in 2020. Thus far, there are mixed views as to whether COP21 will be successful in creating an agreement, despite the serious global need for the agreement to occur.

Denmark is one of a few country that has fully embraced clean technologies already, and therefore has very little economic stake in a global conversion to these same technologies. It’s prime minister, Helle Thorning, seems to be optimistic that other countries will be able to adopt the sustainable technology lifestyle. She believes that education and comprehensive policies are necessary parts of change.

Others like Ian McGregory, who has been an active participant at the COPs, worry that “the lack of progress is a failure to effectively address the overarching issue of each country’s fair share of the global effort required to keep global temperature rise well below the 2⁰C limit.” When addressing the success of COP21, he states that he does not believe all countries are willing to make the sacrifice “given the huge vested interests trying to undermine this agreement in many countries.” Jennifer Morgan, a journalist at the worldwide resources institute, stresses the importance that keeping global warming below 2 degrees C, “two small degrees means either survival or complete devastation for some countries.”

Often discussed is the necessity for leaders of important leading economies such as the United States, China, and Japan to reach an agreement at Paris in 2015. The “vested interests” of some of these economies in oil, gas, and coal could potentially hinder the success of COP21, but Jennifer Morgan points out Germany’s economy as an example of the potential for growth. “Germany, for example, invested in renewable energy to drive technology development. It’s seen significant benefits in terms of hundreds of thousands of new jobs, decreased emissions, and reduced energy consumption.”

These sources represent an array of viewpoints shared by leaders around the world and give good insight into the politicians and upcoming decisions that will make a difference for COP21. The next step will be to look into the identified businesses and government sources (United States, China, Chancellor Merkel, President Dilma, ExxonMobil, and other gas companies) to determine how the COP21 will likely play out. The synthesis of these sources will give a valuable and current viewpoint that would help a reader understand the necessary steps to be successful in Paris in 2015.

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McGregory, Ian. “Global Climate Change Policy: Will Paris Succeed Where Copenhagen Failed?” EInternational Relations. 4 Nov. 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2014. <;.
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Morgan, Jennifer. “Q&A with Jennifer Morgan: How Do We Secure a Strong, International Climate Agreement by 2015?” World Resources Institute. 6 Nov. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2014. <;.
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Thorning, Helle. “How Governments Can Drive the Green Revolution – Forum:Blog.” ForumBlog. 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2014. <;.

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