Sunday, 16 November 2008

The metaphysics of climate change

Thanks to Dave Walker on the Church Times Blog for pointing to this interesting lecture by Father Christopher Jamison on the Operation Noah site. You can read the full lecture here.
You can also read about how to participate in operation Noah's reclaim Christmas day here.

So my first proposal this evening is that the debate about the physics of climate change must be accompanied by a debate about the metaphysics of climate change. We need rules and laws aimed at reducing climate change but they will not be enough. If we are to move beyond rhetoric and aspirational goals to have a tangible impact on people's motivation to do the right thing, then our culture will need to rediscover the reality of metaphysics.

Metaphysics can refer to a particular branch of philosophy but the word 'metaphysics' means literally 'what comes after the physics' and that is the meaning I'm using this evening
The first metaphysical port of call for a modern person facing a public issue is the human rights agenda. Most people today believe in human rights; they are the great metaphysical success of the modern era. Contemporary discussions about right and wrong usually revolve around human rights. So, for example, discussions about the end of life cluster around the right to die and discussions about gender cluster around women's rights. The development of human rights has succeeded in creating a framework within which to address many issues and the benefits have been enormous.
The human rights approach has, however, not provided a framework within which to address environmental issues. It has been noted for many years that there are human rights implications flowing from climate change, as people lose the means to live healthy lives in some countries. The human rights perspective helps us to measure the impact of climate change but it does not help us to remove its causes.