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Energy in trouble

Why is ‘energy’ an ethical issue?

The world as we know is dependent on cheap energy to function, but :

  • the fossil fuels that provide most of it also cause Climate Change;
  • the world demand for energy is steadily rising faster than suppliers can keep up;
  • fossil fuels, particularly oil, will eventually run out, though it is unclear exactly when this will happen;
  • as the supply dwindles while demand is rising, the cost of energy from fossil fuels may rise dramatically;
  • whether we share (or don’t share) the responsibility of changing how we obtain and use energy will greatly affect the future wellbeing of everyone on our planet;
  • but there are consequences to the choices we make in how we reduce energy use and find replacement energy sources.

Thus the core ethical issues revolve around:

  • ensuring fair access to energy
  • understanding the consequences of the way we supply energy
  • deciding upon how we will act in response to those consequences
  • acting quickly enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Next: Energy use & climate change

Planes, fuels and temperature

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Present & future generations:

The generations of people born after us will have to bear the consequences of decisions we make now about energy.
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Protecting the commons:

The Earth doesn’t belong to any one of us, but to all of us. The way that rich countries have used fossil fuels to generate energy is damaging the environment of those who have not acted this way. How can we continue to generate energy, but without damaging the planet or hurting other people?
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Both action and inaction have consequences:

If we do nothing and carry on generating energy the way we have done in the past, carbon emissions from fossil fuels will worsen climate change effects. But effective actions will impact differently on different countries which could lead to disagreement.
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The few versus the many

A few of the more industrialised countries use much more energy than many less industrialised ones. Is this just?
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Control of technology

An important way to conserve energy supplies may well be for rich countries to share new technologies with other, less well off countries but will they? How can we help make this happen?

Activity: Do we really use that much energy?

Everything around us started as raw materials somewhere in nature. Choose 3 things in the room you are in. Make a list of every way you can think of that energy might have been used for it to be here today, as it is.