Notwithstanding the political debates in the media, climate change presents a unique set of ethical challenges faced by all the planet’s inhabitants. To understand the current challenges facing humanity, it is important to retrace the evolution of human society as this underlies the ethical foundations that internalize a group’s beliefs and norms. Humans have modified the environment on a global scale that is unsustainable that has resulted in climate change-a disease process with dire implications. Understanding the root causes of a disease process is the best means of devising a treatment plan. Climate change solutions must be syntonic with a biopsychosocial model that addresses culture and belief systems. The six main ethical theories-utilitarianism, egoism, deontology, virtue, divine command, and relativism all have their inherent flaws. Beauchamp and Childress concatenated these constructs into the four main bioethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance, and justice. Of these, autonomy is least applicable to climate change as decisions made by a subgroup of one species will have an impact on all terrestrial lifeforms both present and future. Humanity must accept the reality of climate change and effect solutions based on these four principles. Failure to act will lead to catastrophic climate changes that may lead to the sixth mass extinction. Effective climate change solutions must embrace an integrative approach by supporting leaders who will embrace science and will advocate for universal human rights.
Part of the book: Bioethics in Medicine and Society