Climate Shange, Sustainable Development & Ethics

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Table of Contents

  • The evidence of Climate Change is compelling:
  • Determine awareness and perceptions regarding climate change.
  • Analysing if personal lifestyle choices are made based on its effect on environment
  • We wanted to analyse:
  • Analyse opinions on Sustainable Development
  • To be acquainted with the existing environmental policies
  • To determine whether behavioural ethics constrain/motivate sustainable practices
  • Conclusion

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia. The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 6,50,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era.

The evidence of Climate Change is compelling:

– The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

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– The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950.

– Global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and is accelerating slightly every year.

– The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969

– Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.

– Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.

With such astounding statistics regarding climate change rising substantially over the past few years, we felt it was apt to conduct a detailed survey on climate change and understand every individual’s perception on the same which is the need of the hour.

On the other hand, sustainable development is a term that is widely used, but not many truly understand the concept. Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The 30-year journey of four World Summits from Stockholm to Nairobi to Rio and to Johannesburg has put the world on notice that achieving sustainable development in the twenty-first century is not an option but an imperative. Human beings have the ability to design their future by structuring uncertain scenarios as mentioned above and use them as mental tools to anticipate consequences of different courses of action and then select activities that appear to lead to our desired state or goal. Sustainable development recognizes that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound today’s vast population and to continue to meet the needs of future generations. Thus, we have tried to analyse the same through our interviews.

Ethics is often ignored or considered unimportant, but climate change and sustainability go hand in hand with ethics. ethics are a much deeper topic and are more complex than these simple trials we may face as a person. In simple words, ethics is a system of moral principles. Sustainable development has become a major issue in today’s society for modern businesses not only economic but also social. For most businesses, the ultimate goal is to bring in revenue and be the best in their industry. However, achieving these goals at all costs is not always ethical. Every business needs to have and uphold business ethics. Business ethics are how companies conduct themselves in their practices and policies. Companies that have failed in this area have been subject to losing customers and bad publicity. In the same way that there are internationally recognised ethical principles valuing human rights, there can and must be ethical principles avowing the value of the natural environment.

The theory of social responsibility is built on a system of ethics, in which decisions and actions must be ethically validated before proceeding. If the action or decision causes harm to society or the environment then it would be considered to be socially irresponsible. A sustainable society lives within the carrying capacity of its natural and social system. It has a system of rules and incentives that promote replenishing and limit depletion and pollution. A sustainable society builds upon the commitment of its members to conform to these rules voluntarily, and it enforces them when necessary. Understanding the interconnection and interdependence of Sustainable development and ethics was key to get an in-depth overview about our topic.

Determine awareness and perceptions regarding climate change.

One misconception in context with climate change is that the threat of climate change has to do with the absolute warmth of the Earth. That is not, in fact, the case. It is, instead, the rate of change that has scientists concerned. Living things, including humans, can easily adapt to substantial changes in climate as long as the changes take place slowly, over many thousands of years or longer. However, adapting to changes that are taking place on timescales of decades is far more challenging. Thus, to understand the perception of individuals with regards to climate change a detailed survey was conducted by us on the same. The major question that we began the questionnaire with was “Do you believe in climate change?”

Climate change denial, or global warming denial involves denial, dismissal, or unwarranted doubt that contradicts the scientific opinion on climate change, including the extent to which it is caused by humans, its impacts on nature and human society, or the potential of adaptation to global warming by human actions. Some deniers endorse the term, while others prefer the term climate change scepticism. The Trump administration is ignoring climate change and pretending the science doesn’t exist even if it’s coming from its own agencies. Instead of working towards reducing climate change, to not say anything about it is just ignorance and irresponsible. This makes it extremely important to understand if individuals even believe in climate change let alone want to bring about changes. Providing more evidence that global warming is accelerating as the result of human carbon emissions is only part of a solution for the issue of climate change. Therefore, it is imperative to know whether individuals believe in the concept.

Analysing if personal lifestyle choices are made based on its effect on environment

Convincing people that the needs of the vast majority of the world’s people are more important than the interests of an industrial minority and the anti-government ideology that supports them is important which brought us to our set of questions that ask them about their personal lifestyle choices which helps us comprehend how much of their individual choices are made keeping the environment in mind. It also helped us gauge how aware they are about the effect of their choices on the environment.

According to a new study that identifies the most effective ways people can cut their carbon emissions the greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child. Carbon emissions must fall to two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming and reducing the population through smaller families could help with that. Thus, we added a question regarding family structures.

Along with that we raised a question about eating habits. In the recent years, veganism has become widely popular not just because of its healthy attributes, but also its positive impact on the environment. According to study author Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, ‘Western red meat diets could lead to dangerous levels of climate change with higher occurrences of extreme weather events, affect the regulatory function of forest ecosystems and biodiversity and pollute water bodies such that it would lead to more oxygen-depleted dead zones in oceans.” Research consistently shows that drastically reducing animal food intake and mostly eating plant foods is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your impact on the planet over your lifetime in terms of energy required, land used, greenhouse gas emissions, water used and pollutants produced.

We wanted to analyse:

a) If they were aware about the fact that eating habits are inter linked with climate change

b) how their daily choices regarding eating affect the environment.

Another major factor that affects climate change, especially in India, is cultural factors which is often neglected or not studied in-depth. How one feels, how one values the things around them and how they respond to them is determined by their culture which one is unaware of. For example: Population growth in India has in part been attributed to the importance placed on male children, creating a cultural need to have more children in order to increase the number of sons. So, we asked our respondents if they believe that cultural practices affect the environment in any possible way.

We were also inquisitive to find out their views on how important it is in context with India. Low-income countries like ours, bear the brunt of the problems caused by the changing climate. There is a great need for a pathway to development that is sustainable and resilient to climate change.

Analyse opinions on Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is in the news every day as the world copes with climate change, biodiversity loss, conflict and resource scarcity, but how many truly understand the concept? The way we approach development affects everyone. Sustainable development provides an approach to making better decisions on the issues that affect all of our lives. The focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. It’s also about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. This means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity. Therefore, we gathered responses about their opinions/views on sustainable development as the impacts of our decisions as a society have very real consequences for people’s lives.

To be acquainted with the existing environmental policies

In order to overcome the major repercussions of man-made depletion of resources, stringent policies have to be placed in organisations and societies as it serves as a commitment to the laws and regulations concerning environmental issues. Environmental policies regulate resource use or reduce pollution to promote human welfare and/or protect natural systems. As interviewers we were unaware about how thoughtful the policy makers of organisations and society are and decided to get detailed information about the existing environmental policies, if any.

To determine whether behavioural ethics constrain/motivate sustainable practices

In order to expect individuals to take up measures towards sustainability it is of utmost importance to understand what drives them or on the contrary, what constrains them from doing the same. Behavioural biases affects judgements and decisions in a number of ways, therefore we included questions to co-relate some key concepts of behavioural ethics with sustainability. Analysing conformity bias was key to determine whether the practice of sustainability is dependent on the people around them or not. The concept of tangible and abstract is also key in the issue of climate change as it is an issue that may not have immediate observable effects. Lastly, we also added a question on incentive gaming so as to understand whether it affects an employee’s thinking pattern to work more ethically in a work environment.

This report documents an upward trend in peoples’ concern about climate change, as reflected in several key indicators tracked in our survey, including substantial number of interviewees agreeing that climate change is happening and harming people now. their awareness that climate change is a result of their very own actions is also considerably high these lifestyle choices were also to some extent affected by conforming to what others were doing as a part of their lifestyle. It was noticed that There is lack of awareness about the fact that eating habits to lead to climate change. People believe that to an extent family structure to leads to climate change. The sample of people were more or less aware about the idea of sustainable development even though not very clear conceptually. The they felt that business should also certainly contribute to sustainability and reduction of environmental degradation as they are the major contributors to it. The interviewees strongly believe that demographic factors such as population etc are major contributors to climate change over the years and that culture may have a slight role too. The common consensus amongst the interviewees was that the government should increase its attention and accountability towards climate change although they agree that there is a certain improve towards this since the past majority of the sample believe that the biggest hurdles toward adoption of sustainability is lack of structure of adoption lack of finances short sightedness and lack of awareness. The interviewees believe that they would most certainly like to move towards better environmental practices and sustainable development is provided with better affordability and accessibility.

–  98% of the sample believe that climate change is happening

–  80% of them believe that climate change is happening due to their own habits and lifestyle patterns

–  The rest 20% have an mixed opinion that it is the government or the big corporates and businesses that are causing environmental degradation

–  93% of the people were prompt in giving instances when they observed practices which were unhealthy for the environment

–  78% people quoted examples of others and 15% quoted their example when asked about degrading practices they observed. Out of the 78% most of the example were of industries factories and corporates while only a few were of a personal level or daily lifestyle practices. When asked about the kind of lifestyle choices that lead to climate change the responses were very mixed but most of them highlighted routine tasks.

–  Only 12% of the people believe that eating habits contribute to climate change

–  Around 47% of the people believe that climate change is due to family structure

–  9% of the people believe that culture plays a role in climate change

–  87% of the respondents believe that demographic factors are a contributory to climate change

–  92% of the sample believe that imbalanced development is contributing to climate change

People were prompt in answering about policy changes that he government should institute but not very clear about the lifestyle changes they should inculcated to reduce the impact of climate change

–  6 in 10 people are associated with organisations which have environmental policies

–  1 in 10 people is not aware of whether their organization has environmental policy

–  The majority of the people believe that sustainability I an important part for any organisation

–  Almost two-thirds of the people believe that there are various barriers that hamper sustainability

–  The green purchasing policy is also not used very extensively by our sample of respondents

–  The respondents feel that although they have taken action over environmental degradation it is something out of the ordinary which they have to do

–  A large majority of respondents believe that adoption of ethical practices are affected by the societal norms and business environment

–  They also belie that ethical training is very important although it is not widely implemented

–  The respondents believe that employees should be given an incentive when promoting business ethics


As we have observed and noted, with the help of thorough research and a set of specific interviews regarding climate change, sustainable development and ethics, we have seen that our environment is depleting, and that climate change is one of the most urgent issues currently. As discussed earlier, climate change is an adaptation and change in the weather and environment of our planet, it is only an issue because of its rapid change due to which humans and other species are not able to cope. We, as humans are an adaptive and fast learning specie but now, we have caused harm to our environment and all other beings. Based on all the collective interviews conducted and keeping in mind the bio centric ethical point of view, and regarding all life valuable on this planet including plants and animals, we can draw the conclusion that our environment is depleting at a rate which is a threat to all beings that thrive on Earth. The rate at which are consuming resources is way higher than the rate at which the Earth is able to replenish them, and this say is causing harm to our environment. The main issues that we are facing are climate change, global warming due to greenhouse gases, the depletion of the ozone layer, rapid rise in the levels of seas and oceans due to intense melting of the polar ice caps. The circle of life on our planet is at stake. Demographic factors like urbanization and a sudden growth on population also affect climate change and in turn affect all of us. It is now in our hands to care for our environment and switch to green resources and policies like carpooling and use of solar energy. We must start because if not now, when? and if not us, who? With the help of the insight we have gained from our interactions with various individuals and their own respective perspectives, we have been enlightened to a broad picture which includes society as a whole, but also that change starts at individual level and soon we can put the conformity bias to a good use, when many individuals start acting in favor of our environment. Organizations have adopted environmental ethics not only to help the environment but also to benefit their brand image. Either way, employees are being nudged into the right direction when it comes to environmental ethics and incentives are given for the same. We can conclude by saying that there are various factors that have contributed to climate change but also that most people are aware of the same, and quite often, even worried regarding this downfall. Awareness is one of the most important factors when it comes to a crisis like this. Most people are willing to work In favor of the environment and will continue to do what they can until most of society is involved in this action towards a better future.

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