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Climate change ethics to be explored.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

As people continue to debate the science behind climate change, a two-year program at the University of Oregon is moving beyond data to explore the moral and ethical implications of a warming planet.

The UO's Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics is staging a series of events around the theme "Climate Ethics and Climate Equity." The next event will be a public talk by New York University environmental studies and philosophy professor Dale Jamieson, who will discuss "The Moral and Political Challenges of Climate Change."

Jamieson's talk will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Room 110 of the Knight Law Center on the UO campus. It is free and open to the public.

Jamieson was among the first scholars to explore the ethical implications of climate change, said Margaret Hallock, the Morse Center director. He calls human-caused climate change "the greatest collective challenge humanity has ever faced."

For the most part the debate on global warming has centered on the science supporting it, but Jamieson believes the issue won't be addressed successfully until people look beyond data and frame it as a moral issue.

For people to care about climate change, he suggests they need to accept it as socially wrong.

"We're going to have to change our attitude so that for the next generation burning coal is going to be seen as behavior that's every bit as unrespectable as lighting up a cigar in a public place," said Jamieson, who holds this year's Wayne Morse Chair.

Hallock said the two-year program isn't about climate science and won't debate that issue.

She said the two-year exploration is based on an acceptance that climate change is happening and is largely the result of human activity.

Seen from that perspective, Hallock said climate change presents some questions that are ripe for debate.

She said addressing climate change could require people to redefine the relationships between rich countries and poor countries, between consumers and producers and between the current generation and future generations.

"We have to think about new conceptions of justice and property and responsibility and obligation," Hallock said. "I think that people grappling with the equity issues demonstrates that it is a moral issue. And it's a motivator for people to think about future generations, to think about people in other countries and to think about issues of personal responsibility and global justice."

The Morse Center will hold more public events centered on the moral and ethical issues raised by climate change over the coming two academic years. A daylong symposium, "The Perfect Moral Storm: Ethical Challenges of Our Climate Crisis," will be held Nov. 13 at the Many Nations Longhouse.

For information on the program, visit the Morse Center Web site,
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Title Annotation:City/Region; The UO's Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics will spend two years looking at the moral implications
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 2, 2009
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