These two brief essays provide a good juxtaposition of two perspectives that view immediate and mandated action to reduce carbon emissions as either morally obligatory or imprudent. For the former, see Vaclav Havel’s, “Our Moral Footprint,” which states rhetorically, “It is also obvious from published research that human activity is a cause of change; we just don’t know how big its contribution is. Is it necessary to know that to the last percentage point, though? By waiting for incontrovertible precision, aren’t we simply wasting time when we could be taking measures that are relatively painless compared to those we would have to adopt after further delays?”

Contrast that with Bjorn Lomborg’s “Our Generational Mission,” which uses the economic concept of opportunity cost to argue that immediate action is not necessary, and perhaps will never be. He wonders, “Why are we so singularly focused on climate change when there are many other areas where the need is also great and we could do so much more with our effort?”

  • John Powers

    It takes Havel 12 paragraphs to get to his prescription “If we drag our feet, the scope for decision-making — and hence for our individual freedom — could be considerably reduced”

    So, we need to reduce freedom, to prevent a reduction of freedom? Hmm..sort of like, “we had to kill the patient to cure the disease”.

    This is not one of the more persuasive arguments I have heard.