Rutgers researchers propose approaching the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using ethical theory of utilitarianism.
An approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that is informed by the ethical theory of utilitarianism would lead to better outcomes for human development, equity, and the climate, according to a new study involving Rutgers researchers.
The study, published in Nature Climate Change, proposes a practical way of measuring how different nations should reduce carbon emissions in order to maximize wellbeing in the world, according to Mark Budolfson, a philosopher and assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and Justice at the Rutgers School of Public Health.
“Utilitarianism tells us to care about everyone’s wellbeing, and to care just the same about each of us,” said Dean Spears, economist at the University of Texas at Austin and a corresponding author along with Budolfson and an international team of researchers. “When we do that, we learn that tackling climate change requires different ambitions of different countries, because countries around the world start from different places with different resources.”
While nations pledged in the 2015 Paris Agreement to mitigate carbon emissions, governments have since failed to agree on their individual responsibility, partly due to the lack of an agreed method for measuring what emissions reductions should be expected from different nations with very different resources.