“Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World”
By John Broome
W. W. Norton & Company, 224pp | Buy on Amazon
The Arctic is melting, the oceans are acidifying, storms and droughts are intensifying and sea levels are on the rise. If left unchecked, global warming is set to threaten civilization as we know it within the next hundreds years, yet the world seems to do very little about it; not because it doesn't care, but rather because it can't seem to reach a consensus. Is global warming and climate change man-made or are we merely experiencing a natural climatic transition? Scientists seem to agree with a 95% certainty that global warming is man-made, yet governments, and even public opinion, seem to be divided. Facts, threats and plans of action regarding global warming have been discussed at length in various books, yet in the face of such complexity, the best person to ask how to tackle climate change might be a philosopher.
I was thrilled and surprised at the same time after reading Climate Matter: Ethics in a Warming World by John Broome, an economist turned moral philosopher. While he introduces the perils of climate change, Broome doesn't dwell one them for too long and, instead, invites us to consider a different model for action. The book explores concepts like justice and goodness, and how these distinct subjects guide us towards a course of action against global warming. For instance, our moral duty as private individuals is determined by the duty of justice; governments on the other hand are morally obliged by goodness.
The whole book is riddled with all sorts of dilemmas, but by the end of the book, all of these will be dispelled by Broome, like how you should act as a responsible citizen in the face of climate change, how should we discount future generations or what is the value of life. The most valuable insight comes much later in the book, however, and deals with offsetting.
If you're looking for a book that discusses the technical details of climate and global warming, this book isn't for you. To be fair, Broome does a good job at covering the bear minimum regarding climate science, just enough to set the context right. Climate Matters is a fabulous and short read that tries to tackle an extremely complex subject, bringing focus and much needed fresh air into the discussion.