Global Warming





Global Warming


Global warming is currently the greatest global problem. The adverse effects are continuously being felt across the world. Various measures to reduce global warming have been adopted by different government. The main approach being used by all the countries is the conservation of the environment, which has been enabled by the enactment of strict environmental laws, that seek to punish individuals and corporations that degrade the environment. The governments also engage in climate talks, where discussions are held on the way forward when handling global warming. An example of these talks is the Chief of Party (COP) summits that take place across various locations annually. This year’s COP21 is taking place in Paris (Briones, Greenwood, and Vasta 44). This topic has attracted thousands of publications online, from various quarters. Some of the most popular publications about the subject are journal articles.

In his article, It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations Sinnott-Armstrong outlines his opinion about people’s moral obligation towards combating global warming. He asserts that the government has the moral obligation to reduce and even stop global warming. However, if the government fails on playing it part, the citizens of these countries do not have the moral obligation to do the government’s job. He provides various reasons as to why reducing global warming should not be a personal moral obligation. However, after internal deliberations, he further asserts why he thinks people should be morally obligated to participate in the efforts to reduce global warming. Additionally, he provides the reader with various assumptions on global warming, which is enlightening as it helps the reader adopt a broader perspective in the subject. Generally, the author maintains that people should be morally obligated to reduce the effects of global warming. People have the moral obligation to preserve the environment and ensure their actions do not contribute to the degradation of the environment, which increases global warming.

Discussion on the Article

To support his main point, Sinnott-Armstrong provides the reader with various principles to support his claim, that people should be morally obligated in the efforts to reduce this problem. The first principle is the harm principle, where as citizens, we have the moral obligation not to engage in any activities that cause harm to others. This also refers to degrading the environment through activities such as wasteful driving. People should be responsible enough to ensure that their actions are not contributing more to the global warming menace. Another principle is that we are morally obligated to avoid engaging in activities that indirectly cause harm to others or to the environment. This also ties with the principle that we have the moral obligation not to make problems or situations worse. He continues with his example of wasteful driving. He asserts that continuous action would hurt someone in the end. This analogy applies to the global warming situation, where even the small actions, which may seem unimportant or insignificant, contribute largely to the global warming process. These are some among the various principles he applies to explain his argument. The global warming process has caused significant climate change across the globe. It is important to note that the process is gradual, which means that activities considered insignificant to the community fuel the process further. Studies reveal that these negligible activities can be reduced if people become morally responsible of their actions. One of the greatest solutions to global warming is for people to become morally obligated to conserve the environment and actively avoid activities that fuel climate change. After a careful review of the author’s argument, I agree with his claims that people should have the moral obligation to be environmentally conscious, and make the efforts to reverse the global warming process.

In the beginning of the article, Sinnott-Armstrong provides the reader with various assumptions about global warming. He claims that the biggest governments are able to manage and mitigate global warming in their countries. I agree with this assumption largely because the bigger governments have enough resources to combat global warming. For instance, the United States government, which is the largest in the world, has put in place austere measures to reverse this devastating process. The American Forests organization was founded in 1990, whose aim is to restore United States forests in all the 50 states. This program also includes the forestation of at least 45 other countries across the world. This year’s project, which is referred to as Global ReLeaf 2015, seeks to help at least 18 states and 7 other countries to reforest areas that have been deforested by man, and destroyed by wildlife and nature. Evidently, the United States government has enough resources to engage in reforestation projects. The desired effect is to reverse the global warming process and revamp the dwindling ecology. Forestation as mentioned above is one of the most viable solutions to the problem. Therefore, from the example stated above, I agree with the author’s assumption, because it can be compounded by facts.

Sinnott-Armstrong also assumes that the poor countries in the world will be the most affected by global warming, when the effects will be felt harshly (Sinnott-Armstrong 294). He further quotes two reasons to support his assumptions. Firstly, the rich countries are the ones contributing the most to the process, and secondly, the poor countries which are located along the coasts will flood when the arctic and the Antarctica begins to thaw. It is true that the rich countries, in this case the first world countries, emit many poisonous gases into the atmosphere. This is because these countries have the largest industries. Historically, this can be traced back to the colonial times, when the European settlers colonized the African countries, exploited their natural resources, which helped them establish industries in their mother countries. Another reason why these countries are more industrialized is that they underwent the scientific and industrial revolution centuries ago. Being more industrialized means more carbon into the atmosphere, which erodes the ozone layer (Gonzalez 75). Additionally, the poor countries, which are largely in Africa and Asia, happen to have coastlines. This means that gradually, due to the thawing caused by global warming, the coastal towns will begin to flood, thus displacing millions of people from their homes. Evidently, the poor countries are on the losing end. With these facts, I agree with the author’s assumption that the rich countries are the greatest contributors to global warming, and the poor countries will be the one shortchanged.

The most obvious fact, which has been considered an assumption in the article, is that global warming is largely caused by human activities. He further adds that the greatest culprit is the use of fossil fuel. Studies prove that fossil fuels are the largest source of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Fossil fuels are fuels that are derived from the animal and plant fossils dated millions of years. The main fossil fuels used are natural gas, coal, and petroleum. When these fuels are burnt, they release carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other gases into the atmosphere (Strauss, Rupp, and Love 44). These gases are also responsible for global warming. The largest effect of the global warming is the melting of the polar caps, which as mentioned earlier, will flood the coastal regions of the countries in the lower altitudes. Other than global warming, it is also important to note other negative consequences of using fossils fuels such as the danger to human health since these gases cause cancer. This assumption is strongly compounded with scientific facts, therefore making it easy to agree with the author on his claims.

Further, in the article, Sinnott-Armstrong claims that there are various principles that guide people on developing the moral obligation to prevent or reduce global warming. As mentioned earlier, these obligations are not meant to excuse the government from performing its functions in the efforts to reduce global warming. One of the most outstanding principles is the harm principle (Sinnott-Armstrong 297). He asserts that people should be careful not to perform any acts that will cause harm to other people. I agree with this principle because it is collective responsibility for people to reduce actively global warming. I also agree with his observation that global warming cannot be stopped but it can be reduced. This is because once these poisonous gases are emitted into the atmosphere; they linger on, thus continuing with the process of eroding the ozone layer. With his example of the wasteful driving activity, the author explains how the gaseous emissions become frequent and numerous, since more people are out driving unnecessarily, thus intensifying the process. Logically, the more people driving, the more gases are released into the air. His claims are based on facts, which serve as the basis to agree with him on this. In addition to this, it is also important to consider the morality involved with the conservation of the environment. For example, if people decided to leave their cars at home, and instead take the bus home, then here would be less emission and air pollution. This would benefit the country, as the roads would be less congested. The United States government encourages the citizens to practice more carpooling in an effort to reduce air pollution. Based on this information, the author is correct when he makes his assumptions and principles. Therefore, I agree with his principle and claims that global warming cannot be stopped but it can be reduced.

The doctrine of double effect has been mentioned as one of the principles that are important when addressing the issue of global warming. The author explains this as “people having the moral obligation not to harm anyone intentionally”. He further explains that this doctrine largely focuses on the virtue ethics, which largely address an individual’s character rather than specific acts or tendencies. This doctrine houses the other principles, which have been, explore by the author. I agree with the author’s approach with this doctrine, since human character and behavior largely influence his or he behavior and decisions. From this doctrine, it is easy to expound on global warming in terms of human behavior. This is largely related to the moral obligation that has been discussed widely in the paper. Choosing to be personally responsible of conserving the environment is entirely a personal decision that cannot be imposed on anyone. However, through socialization, people can acquire virtues, which will later help them when making decisions. This means that, a person who has embraced these virtues is likely to be conscious of their surrounding, which will inspire them to make efforts in the conservation of the environment through activities such as planting more trees, proper disposal of wastes, using unleaded fuel with the car, among other activities. The result is the reduction of global warming, which is the main objective. From this perspective, I agreed with Sinnott-Armstrong’s claims that people should adopt the doctrine of double effect.

Sinnott-Armstrong discusses the group principle as one of the ways to influence people’s behavior in order to combat global warming. He explains that human beings are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that they are not part of a group contributing to the detriment of the society. I agree with this perspective because as he observes, a single person’s actions are hardly felt. However, if many people converge and engage in an activity, then their actions will be experienced. Another reason why I agreed with this perspective is the fact that it is very applicable in the global warming situation. Once again, I will use the wasteful driving example has used. If one person is driving aimlessly and emitting gases into the atmosphere, the gases are less likely to contribute to global warming. However, if 100 people engage in the same, then there is a high likelihood for the gases to increase global warming. The higher the number of people polluting the environment, the greater the degradation experienced.

The general action principle as discussed by the author states that human beings have the moral obligation not to engage in any action that would make the situation worse if everyone else did it. He further explains that it is retrogressive for an individual to perform an action that when performed by many more, it would be detrimental to other people and the society as well. The main reason why I agreed with this principle is that it resonated with various other principles that have been discussed in the paper. An example is that people have the moral obligation not to participate in any activities that could harm anyone or the environment. If everyone in the country decided to drive to the city daily, then there would be more carbon emissions, which is highly discouraged. In the same way, it is important for people to avoid engaging in activities that when practiced by more people, would cause damages. This can be interpreted as an effort to be responsible citizens and environmentally friendly as well.

Sinnott-Armstrong quips that the government still has the moral obligation to fight global warming. However, my point of disagreement with him is when he subtly implies that the sole responsibility of environmental conservation lies with the government. He implies this when he shifts the role to the government, claiming that even though people lack the moral obligation to conserve their environment, the government is still responsible. The problem with this approach is that it almost nullifies his previous points as he insists on the moral obligations of the people. Personally, I think that the public should bear the bigger responsibility in environmental conservation mainly because they are the ones who are greatly affected by the global warming, and not the government. I think that the government’s main role should be to complement its citizen’s efforts to reduce global warming. It is important for an author to ensure their claims do not conflict as they have in this case. After discussing the various principles to apply when fighting global warming, it is clear that the main responsibility to combat global warming and conserve the environment lies with the citizens, and not the government.


The article by Sinnott-Armstrong has indeed provided insights to the reader on various issues surrounding the reduction of global warming. More often than not, most people believe that this fight can only be won through enacting laws and formulating strict environmental policies. One of the most effective approaches to fighting global warming is through the adoption of various principles that largely govern human behavior. Evidently, environmental conservation begins with an individual. If one does not have virtue ethics in them, as described by the article, then it becomes difficult to enlighten the person on the importance of environmental conservation and thus they engage in retrogressive practices such as wasteful driving which increases the level of air pollution. The principles mentioned in the article are sensible and applicable. However, implying that people should rely on the government to reduce global warming is misguided as the sole responsibility lies with the citizens.


Works Cited:

Briones, Jesika, Joe Greenwood, and Sameer Vasta. The Market Impact of Accessible Energy Data. Toronto, Ont.: MaRS Discovery District, 2012. Print.

Gonzalez, George A. The Politics of Air Pollution. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005. Print.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. ‘It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations’. Perspectives on Climate Change: Science, Economics, Politics, and Ethics Advances in the Economics of Environmental Research 5 (2005): 293-315. Print.

Strauss, Sarah, Stephanie Rupp, and Thomas F Love. Cultures of Energy. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013. Print.


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