The Ethics of Climate Change
This thesis examines the ethics of climate change and associated mitigation programs, motivated by the need for the world to not only make significant changes, but to consider who should drive such change and whether the actions undertaken are considered from an ethical perspective. This thesis by publication comprises two studies. The first is a systematic literature review of the ethics of climate change published in Accounting and Finance and the second is a qualitative study of the ethics of the Green New Deal, under review at the Journal of Accounting Literature.
Climate change has impacted the world as we know it and will continue to do so unless radical steps are taken. These steps involve complex ethical decisions that will need to be made by leaders worldwide. The systematic literature review undertaken on the ethics of climate change from 1992 to 2020 reveals three key areas of research: the ethics of who bears the cost of climate change, market solutions, and geoengineering and non-market solutions. Emerging research areas relate to the ethics of population, displacement and resettlement, and leadership. This study reveals an intrinsic relationship between ethics and climate change that extends beyond a purely economic and emissions-based perspective. An ethical perspective must be utilised to ensure that any amelioration efforts are equitable and consider those at the margins, including those in developing nations.
The second study builds on the findings of the first and attempts to understand the major ethical, equity, and leadership issues that may arise when governments plan massive infrastructure and amelioration programs such as the United States’ Green New Deal (GND). The methodology developed here could be applied to the plans being created in other developed countries such as Canada and Korea. A qualitative approach was used to analyse the ethical issues associated with the Green New Deal via semi-structured interviews with 34 published authors of academic articles dealing with the ethics of climate change and 2 industry participants. This study identifies three key themes arising from the proposed implementation of the Green New Deal. Firstly, the GND has the potential to present equity, justice, and ethical issues that must be considered as part of any intended adoption. Secondly, the GND will present opportunities for economic and climate success, but some groups may suffer due to its implementation. Thirdly, those that have the capacity, wealth, leadership, and ability should lead climate change initiatives. This may require market solutions in the short-term to reach 2050 net zero targets. This study is the first qualitative study undertaken on the Green New Deal, contributing to the development of the scant literature on this topic and also informing the practical implementation of wholesale infrastructure plans.