Climate change has become increasingly important in the past decade. Increased green house gas emissions (carbon dioxide emissions) in the atmosphere due to human activities such as burning of fossil fuels, land use, etc. are resulting in increased global temperatures, glacier retreats, increased length of seasons, changing and severe weather, sea levels rising, etc. This in turn causes a number of controversial and ethical issues: the rich (developed countries) vs. the poor (developing countries) and the responsibilities and obligations that accompany climate change. There are many ethical issues that correlate to climate change. If prevention and reduction strategies are to be developed to address the issues of climate change, they must combine adaptation, mitigation, and ethical principles in developed and developing countries.
Politicians and world leaders have an obligation to develop a plan that will reduce the sources of climate change. However Chalmers explains that many value systems are ill-equipped to deal with the spatial and temporal complexities of the problem. Meaningful change will require collective action on an unprecedented scale, and will require that responsibility is effectively assigned and assumed. One aspect of this ethical dilemma of climate change is whether or not humans have an obligation and responsibility to future generations. Climate change is not only effecting the current generation, but could also have a drastic impact in the future. Secondly, there exists and issue of the obligations of the rich vs. the poor. Considerable changes in our climate will have a greater effect on certain countries. One of the complications of trying to develop solutions to climate change is acknowledging that it is a serious issue. The countries that are well-off and are financially stable have many resources, connections, and influences that can be used to inform and educate others of climate change. They also have the financial means to help fund scientific research and implement prevention and adaptation plans. Countries such as these have an ethical and moral responsibility to use their resources to help the effort of climate change prevention and reduce their impact. The problems associated with climate change will have the greatest effect on the poor. The plans and strategies developed to adapt to and prevent climate change need to be tailored so that there are responsibilities to the poor that guarantee social justice.