The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
Pro (for)
4 Points

Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/28/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 10,533 times Debate No: 25893
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




"One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation."-Thomas B. Reed
"Developed countries: sovereign state which has a highly developed economy and advanced technological infrastructure relative to other less developed nations
"Moral obligation: an obligation arising out of considerations of right and wrong
"Mitigate: to lessen in force or intensity, as wrath, grief, harshness, or pain; moderate
"Effects: a change that is the result or consequence of an action or other cause
"Climate change: is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years.
Contention 1: The economic impact of environmental legislation hurts the economies of developed countries. New regulations planned by the EPA could have detrimental effects to our economy " particularly causing a loss of jobs, impeding economic recovery and harming livelihoods. The heart of the EPA"s regulation would be a backdoor national energy tax that will ultimately kill jobs, stop economic growth and raise the cost of energy, food and transportation. They would also double the current regulatory standard on farm dust that would make tilling a field, operating a feedlot or diving farm vehicles impossible - bringing the agriculture sector to a standstill. A representative from the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation said, "Farmers and their way of life and livelihood have never felt more challenged or threatened than they do today by the continuous onslaught of regulations and requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency... The cost they represent will impact the economy as a whole, and this committee should not be surprised when our economy contracts and jobs are lost to foreign competition." An MIT study conducted by Stephen M. Meyers clearly shows that increased environmental regulation burdens the economy, especially in times of economic downfall. So why then, would we want any more ridiculous red tape? An increase in environmental regulation would result in the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars, nobody wants to see that.
Contention 2: The Earth"s climate is always changing. If you talk to any credible climatologist, they will tell you the Earth's temperature has been much hotter and colder than it is now. Anyone saying that we should reverse the effects of climate change are obviously misinformed and have no scientific background. The climate is always in a state of constant change and development. The Earth goes through natural periods of cooling and warming, that"s scientific fact. Would you blame the warming of the Earth after the last Ice Age on humans or man-made greenhouse gases? As with all the climate change nonsense, not a single claim can be substantiated as actual physical proof. Only assumptions and predictions made with manipulated computer models and deliberately corrupted data exist. Actual meteorological records and geophysical records destroy any credibility of everything ever said by these environmental groups. The real agenda of "global warming" has nothing to do with climate or weather but all to do with politics and the financial gain of those who stand to benefit from green investments. What better an investment could they have than one where the government forces the use of a green scheme idea or product on the public? In a 1996 report by the UN on global warming, two statements were deleted from the final draft. Here they are: 1) "None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed climate changes to increases in greenhouse gases." 2) "No study to date has positively attributed all or part of the climate change to man"made causes.
Contention 3: There is no moral obligation to mitigate climate change because nations are not moral entities. On what grounds are so-called "developed countries" morally obligated to do anything? The simple fact is that there is no basis for this claim. Individuals, rather than government, determine morals. Government is not, and never has been where you should look for morals; you have that in your own heart and conscience; you teach that to your family. You cannot dictate what morals your neighbor has nor what morals your neighbor teaches his children. Make yourself an example with morals; that is all one can do. And certainly government has no place in that. The whole idea that a country would have a "moral obligation" is unethical on the basis of Ethical Relativism, that ethics and morals are relative to each Nation or even culture and that there is no standard ethical or moral policy that all nation-states ought to abide by.


Thanks for the debate Idaho_Rebel.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, has stated that climate change has major environmental, social, political, and economic consequences. The issue at stake in this debate, whether developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the consequences of climate change, is thus quite necessary.

Pro Case

1. What are the potential "effects" of climate change?

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations will reach 400ppm by 2017, if not earlier, making a rise in average global temperatures inevitable. It has been predicted that urban "heat island" effects (the result of rising temperatures) will result in the death of tens of thousands of people across the world. Other predictions include: high-intensity storms and flooding, causing property and infrastructure damage; droughts threatening food and water supplies; wildfires, desertification, and soil erosion destroying agricultural land, raising food prices, and leading to large-scale migrations; and rising sea levels, devastating low-lying coastal settlements (including many major cities).

Source: IPCC, 2011: IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation -

2. Why do "developed countries" have a moral obligation to mitigate these effects?

The potential harms caused by climate change should be readily apparent, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that there is some sort of obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change, regardless of which ethical precept is applied. For example, a utilitarian ethics (greatest good for the greatest number) is just as likely to recommend policies that mitigate the effects of climate change as a Kantian ethics (regarding the rightness of actions themselves). So then, the next question is: "who" carries the burden or moral obligation to curb the effects of climate change?

The issue at stake here is one of responsibility: do particular governments have more responsibility than others?

A reasonable principle to apply here would be the "common but differentiated responsibility" principle: the idea that everyone bears a responsibility to mitigate the effects of climate change, but those with the ability to pay have a greater burden to do so. We could apply other ethical principles, such as the idea of "intergenerational equity" (the debt to future generations) or "compensatory equity" (the debt to more socioeconomically vulnerable people). The conclusion of these principles suggests developed countries, who by definition are more advanced economically and technologically, have a greater burden to mitigate the effects of climate change than do currently developing countries.

Con Case

Re: "Contention 1"

My opponent's argument, that the "economic impact of environmental legislation hurts the economies of developed countries," is flawed for two reasons. First, my opponent completely neglects the possibility of alternative mitigation proposals, some which might even have a positive effect on the economy. For example, the development of drought-resistant crops, storm-resistant housing, climate-resilient infrastructure, and secure food/water supplies could easily produce new jobs and stimulate economic growth. Indeed, there is no need to focus on CO2 emissions when other options exist. In low-lying coastal settlements, for example, we could build sea walls, which are not only cheaper but much more likely to protect than an energy tax.

Second, my opponent's argument offers no reason to believe environmental legislation would hurt the economy. How would the EPA's national energy tax "kill jobs" and "stop economic growth"? How would it make "tilling a field" and "operating a feedlot" impossible? The only answer my opponent provides to these questions is "foreign competition." This fear is unfounded, however, because the EPA's regulations only apply to global industries (domestic industries would be unaffected since they all operate under the same restrictions). Moreover, since fossil fuels are already becoming more expensive relative to renewable sources, an energy tax would simply accelerate a transition to "green energy" that is already underway, including the retraining of carbon-intensive industries for "green jobs." The U.S. economy as a whole would remain competitive.

Re: "Contention 2"

The argument that humans are not responsible for climate change is irrelevant: assuming climate change is harmful to the well-being of humans, it would not matter who or what was responsible for the harm. The issue at stake in this debate is who is responsible for cleaning up the mess, not who is responsible for creating the mess. To clarify this point, consider Peter Singer's example of a child drowning in a shallow pond: do we have a moral obligation to rescue the child? Yes, we do. Now, suppose someone pushed the child into the shallow pond; does this fact suddenly absolve you of the moral obligation to rescue the child? No, it doesn't.

The burden of mitigating the effects of climate change falls on humanity as a whole, with a greater burden placed on those who can better afford to pay for mitigation proposals. The issue of who is responsible for climate change is thus irrelevant.

Re: "Contention 3"

My opponent argues that "nations are not moral entities," so therefore the "idea that a country would have a 'moral obligation' is unethical on the basis of Ethical Relativism." The argument is not only entirely incoherent (how can something be objectively "unethical" on the basis of "Ethical Relativism"?), but its premises are flat-out wrong.

The problem is that my opponent confuses descriptive ethics with normative ethics, taking the existence of different moral views (it is true that different individuals, cultures, and countries can have different moral doctrines) to establish the lack of a true morality that "nation-states ought to abide by." Just because a particular individual or nation believes their moral view is the right one does not make it right. A culture might practice slavery or cannibalism, but the fact they believe these practices ethical does not make itself make these practices ethical.

If we employ an objective ethical framework, such as a utilitarian or deontological ethics which both make claims of universality and objectivity, then my opponent's argument is clearly misguided. But suppose we grant my opponent his claim of ethical relativism, that does not mean no ethical precept can be established. It simply means that, from our perspective, what is right is determined by what we believe. That does not mean what we believe is not a "standard ethical or moral policy." On the contrary, the whole point of ethical relativism is to establish that our morality is situated in our specific culture, and since our culture is one in which protecting the life and property of our citizens is of ethical importance, mitigating climate change is thus also important.

The other point my opponent makes - that individuals, not nations, are moral entities - makes no sense. A country or government has the choice - rational free choice - to make decisions and affect the world, just like an individual. This simple fact makes a country a "moral entity," in the sense that my opponent uses the term. The distinction between individual and country does not hold up, because countries are simply the association of individuals for a specific purpose under a particular name. This allows countries to function in the same way as individuals, making them moral entities.
Debate Round No. 1


Idaho_Rebel forfeited this round.


Since my opponent forfeited the previous round, extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 2


Idaho_Rebel forfeited this round.


Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by ThatCraZyTeenager 5 years ago
Wow this is so werid I am debating this topic for school and both of your debates helped me a little so thanks. And I wanted to talk or at least give both of you some more information. For the Affirmative side you should also prove or have ways that we can emit less CO2. Like hydro-electric power, biomass, hydrogen, geothermal energy, wind and solar power. Negation can also go into the fact more about how if we did "mitigate" the effects of climate change how there is major hole missing in the claim that climate change is real, also about how since the majority of developed are in a economic downfall and submitting millions into a cause that we are sure about would be like jumping into an abyss.
Posted by awesomeness 5 years ago
Idaho Rebel, can you please post the links of the evidence you used for judging reference
Posted by Beginner 5 years ago
Accepting this would be like taking an automatic loss. :)
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by famer 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF