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Old 2019-10-25, 19:32   #1
The Carnivore
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Jun 2010

25410 Posts
Default How much do distant foreigners' lives matter?

I was reading this article about the impacts of climate change the other day and had an interesting shower thought:
Sudan was the biggest loser, so to speak. The researchers estimated that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is 36 percent smaller today because of global warming. India closely followed, with a 31 percent loss, and Nigeria, with a 29 percent blow.

Norway was the big winner: Researchers estimated that its current GDP is 34 percent higher because of climate change. Canada’s is 32 percent higher

For the sake of argument, let's suppose that burning fossil fuels are the sole cause of climate change and that northern countries would continue experiencing a net benefit from climate change while tropical countries would continue to suffer from current and future climate change.

Now let's say that you were a Norwegian who could either opt for a high carbon lifestyle or a low carbon one. Choosing the high carbon lifestyle means you get to enjoy the benefits and conveniences of fossil fuels. Your country and neighboring countries also get to benefit from climate change, but at the expense of faraway tropical countries. Choosing the low carbon lifestyle would entail personal sacrifices. Your fellow citizens and those in neighboring countries would not get as many positive effects of climate change, but those in tropical countries would not suffer as badly from its impacts.

In that case, would choosing the high carbon lifestyle be the rational, ethical, and even the patriotic option? Does it make sense to prioritize the needs of people whom you've never met in countries you'll never visit over those of yourself and your fellow countrymen?
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Old 2019-10-25, 19:57   #2
retina's Avatar
"The unspeakable one"
Jun 2006
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For your hypothetical Norwegian "foreigner" (remembering that some people here might be actual Norwegian locals) the choices aren't so clear cut. Sure (s)he can decide to say "forgetabout those backward countries that I don't care about, show me my new Hummer". But then the social pressure might get to them. Climate shaming, or whatever it is called, comes along to ridicule Hummer owners. So maybe the only realistic choice is then to use the bicycle and ice skates and maintain a more pleasant social atmosphere and keep their friends. Perhaps a choice they didn't want to make willingly, but they can still claim the higher moral ground an pretend the choice was made purely for the benefit of others and pinky-swear it wasn't out of any selfish motive.
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Old 2019-10-26, 14:48   #3
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Dec 2003

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