The modern economy runs on energy derived from fossil fuels. These fossils hold large amounts of carbon that releases energy after combustion. The energy is released as heat, which is converted into other forms of energy such as electricity. Fossil fuels are convenient, safe, cheap, and relatively abundant, thereby making them the most preferable source of energy. However, the process of combustion releases harmful gases into the atmosphere that trap the sun’s heat. This accumulation of heat alters the global climate. This phenomenon, which is referred to as global warming causes extreme weather patterns such as drought and flooding. While some regions experience minimal effects of climate change, low-lying and coastal areas bear the biggest brunt of these extreme natural occurrences. While governments can intervene through legislation and regulatory restrictions, the long-term nature of the problem and the societal dependence on fossil fuels limits the capacity for action. In addition, large corporations that have large investments in the energy sector lobby legislators to support the sector. Consequently, global warming remains a pressing concern for our society.
Societal overdependence on fossil fuels underscores man’s greed. According to Lindsey (2020), the average greenhouse gas emissions index increased by 87% in the last four decades. In addition, Lindsey expects the average global temperature to increase by an additional one degree by the end of the current century, which will result in devastating consequences for the global population. While this increase in emissions has coincided with a gradual reduction of extreme poverty in most countries, there is sufficient evidence to attribute most of this change to overconsumption in developed economies. Experts agree that the rate of consumption evident in most countries is not sustainable and could result in the depletion of natural resources. Worse still, with the growing middle classes in developing countries, the culture of overconsumption is going to spread to other regions. This culture values the excessive acquisition of consumer goods in ever-increasing amounts without any concern for the environment. Eventually, most of these consumer goods end up as waste. Therefore, human greed fuels overproduction, overconsumption, and the consequent overexploitation and degradation of the environment.
Overreliance on fossil fuels goes against the values of utilitarianism. This theory advocates that people should engage in actions that bring happiness or pleasure to the largest number of people. When making utilitarian decisions relating to the environment, decision-makers should prioritize the needs and welfare of the majority of the world’s population. However, in the current context, society’s overreliance on fossil fuels favors the rich and middle class living mostly in the urban areas and puts the life of most of the global population at risk. Despite the notion that the poor need fuel to improve their lives and the productivity of their businesses, most of the world’s population and especially those living in rural areas and developing countries do not use fossil fuels in their day-to-day lives. These marginalized populations, which make up the largest proportion of the world’s population, have learned to live in harmony with nature by exploiting energy resources sustainably. Therefore, global overreliance on fossil fuels does the greatest harm to the largest proportion of society.
A further rise in average global temperature will affect most of the world’s population, especially those living in coastal areas. Conservative estimates indicate that the adverse effects of climate change will have displaced nearly 200 million people by the year 2050 (Lavelle, 2021). These refugees will be forced to live in alternative areas due to floods, drought, hurricanes, and other related extreme weather patterns. Besides the displacement, a large proportion of the population will die from a lack of food, while others will die of floods. Moreover, with the declining water resources and degradation of arable land, communities will start fighting for a share of the remaining areas that can sustain their lives and livelihoods. These conflicts will cause untold suffering and even death to a large proportion of the world’s population. Most of these conflicts are likely to emerge in poor and developing economies that contributed little to the problem of global warming. The distressing images of human suffering and pain will be a common feature in the mainstream media. These images will unsettle even the rich people with conscientious minds living in secure areas. Consequently, addressing the societal overreliance on fossil fuels will benefit both secure and vulnerable populations.
The world has clean alternatives to fossil fuels. In the wake of these adverse developments in the global climate, most countries have started developing renewable energy sources. These sources include hydropower, nuclear, solar, and wind energy. In the past, the low cost and abundance of fossil fuels limited investment in these renewable energy sources. However, the steep environmental cost of fossil fuel-based energy has forced policymakers to view the long-term benefits of investing in renewables. Moreover, advances in technology have led to a gradual decline in the upfront and maintenance costs of renewable energy projects. In some cases, the cost of developing these alternatives is lower than that of developing fossil fuels. Furthermore, the progressive regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions make it more expensive to maintain these conventional energy sources in the long term. Moreover, investing in renewable energy solutions will enable the environment to recover from the adverse impacts of emissions that have accumulated since the advent of the industrial age. While some renewable energy sources are not reliable especially due to their fluctuations in net energy output, a proper blend of these sources could counteract these variations to provide sufficient energy to power society. Some countries have led succeeded in developing renewable energy resources to the extent that these sources contribute to most of their energy needs. Therefore, switching to renewable energy sources generates the highest value in the long term.
Utilitarianism offers a superior alternative to duty ethics. The duty ethics theory advocates for the performance of the right thing irrespective of the consequences. Given the current plight of the largest proportion of the population, governments and policymakers cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand. While duty-based ethicists highlight the unpredictability of the future as justification for not doing the right thing, most experts agree that the current trajectory as regards energy use is not sustainable and will result in tremendous human suffering. Therefore, the adoption of duty-based ethics will result in the loss of valuable habitats, displacement of the world population, and even death under the pretext that producing low-cost fossil fuel-based energy is the right thing to do to save the global economy.
Lavelle, M. (2021). By 2050, 200 million climate refugees may have fled their homes. but international laws offer them little protection. Inside Climate News. Web.
Lindsey, R. (2020). Climate change: Annual greenhouse gas index. Climate.Gov. Web.