Could Ethics Be the Key to Shifting the Climate Debate?

A truck engine is tested for pollution near the Mexican-U.S. border in Otay Mesa, CaliforniaIn discussions about climate change, emphasizing science, the environment, or politics can be polarizing. However, common ground can often be reached by appealing to people’s sense of right and wrong. In a new Reuters poll, 66 percent of respondents said world leaders are morally obligated to address climate change, and 72 percent said they felt a personal moral obligation to reduce emissions.
Increasingly, climate change is being discussed in terms of ethics and climate justice – Pope Francis’ upcoming papal edict is one important example. Since most people feel an ethical responsibility to care for their neighbors, putting a moral frame on climate action helps broaden its appeal. For more ways to engage people through their personal values and beliefs, check out our report, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication.

Most Americans See Combating Climate Change as a Moral Duty

Bruce Wallace, Contributor to Reuters
A significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders – to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters/IPSOS poll has found.
The poll of 2,827 Americans was conducted in February to measure the impact of moral language, including interventions by Pope Francis, on the climate change debate. In recent months, the pope has warned about the moral consequences of failing to act on rising global temperatures, which are expected to disproportionately affect the lives of the world’s poor.
The result of the poll suggests that appeals based on ethics could be key to shifting the debate over climate change in the United States, where those demanding action to reduce carbon emissions and those who resist it are often at loggerheads.
Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that world leaders are morally obligated to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. And 72 percent said they were “personally morally obligated” to do what they can in their daily lives to reduce emissions.
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