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Moral Obligations to Climate Change and Animal Life Essay

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Updated: Nov 11th, 2020


It should be noted that understanding of morality implies the knowledge and comprehension of a variety of issues that affect the daily life of every person. It is linked directly to the decisions a person makes and the way he or she justifies the reasoning. To be able to become a rational person, it is essential to think critically about the concepts and domains that the individual faces and the way it will be sensible to react to them. Importantly, critical thinking skill helps people to defend or explicate the concepts in which they believe, and individual reasoning is the core and platform of one’s moral life. It should be stressed that living morally implies understanding the importance and reacting accordingly to the issues linked to animal life and the natural environment. In this paper, I will argue that contemporary people should have moral obligations linked to climate change and it is humans’ moral duty to ensure secure animal life.

Main Arguments

It is not always easy to state clearly whether the nature of morality lies within the distinction between right and wrong. In addition, it is difficult to determine if the desired outcome for humanity should be considered the best possible result in general. To be more precise, the essence of the problem is the question of whether the morally wrong conduct can be justified, explained, or be appropriate even if it led to a positive outcome for the present and future generations. As stated by many different scientists, researchers, and investigators, people have made an immense environmental impact on nature, species, and the planet (Abbey, 2016). At present, more and more people become aware of the consequences of human activities for nature and animals, but the methods of mitigating these effects are not always moral in their core. Many people claim that environmental decline is the consequence of a specific form of discrimination and animal suffering and extinction is a mode of oppression.

It is worth emphasizing that, despite the attempts to justify violence against animals through its potential contribution to the life of people or any other arguments, this is a violation of the fundamental moral principle of equal attention to the needs of living beings. This principle applies to all living creatures and not people solely. It is crucial that many philosophers tried to protect the human right to violent acts on animals; however, the arguments used in defense of animal slavery were groundless (Abbey, 2016). The exploitation of living beings for the purpose of achieving certain goods implies that some species of animals are more valuable, while some species are a direct source of meeting human needs such as nutrition. This approach to valuing animal species differently does not differ from racial prejudice and bias; therefore, the violence against animal species is one of the manifestations of discrimination.

It is crucial to note that even those philosophers who were not activists in terms of protecting animal rights advocated for reconsidering the attitude towards them. For instance, Frey (2014) was not an ardent protector of animals, but he stressed that one should not argue that human life is more important than that of animals. He stated that those who justify experimenting on animals for the potential benefits it can bring people should also consider the option of committing violence against other people in connection with the fact that experiments on them could also bring certain assets to humanity. Moreover, there are examples of philosophers who have changed their position (Abbey, 2016). For instance, Fox wrote a book that provided a variety of different arguments for carrying out experiments on animals; however, he subsequently renounced his work and became a convinced vegetarian. He realized that his arguments were erroneous and justification of experiments on living beings who are able to feel is unethical (Singer, 2014). Such a transformation marked the transition from conformism in relation to generally accepted principles to the fulfillment of the Socratic role. Thus, rethinking the value of animal life displayed that prejudices towards them were a form of discrimination by species; therefore, it was unacceptable.

Further on, environmental issues and climate change are also the topics that should raise serious ethical and moral concerns. Despite the wide public and political debates over these problems, most often these discussions are simplistic and do not cover the core ethical principles. Those people who disregard climate change due to the potential economic benefit it brings neglect the outcomes for future generations. According to Schmidtz (2014), the economic analysis conducted by researchers does not consider the practical costs for people, nature, and non-humans. To be more precise, animal and plant species, the ecosystems are constantly affected by emissions and the greenhouse effect. They adversely affect their populaces and habitats. In addition, it leads to aesthetical costs to people. Nevertheless, the economic analysis neglects these consequences due to the fact that the triggers of greenhouse effects allow minimizing the financial costs, which brings immediate benefits to the current population but long-term (and often irreversible) consequences for the future generations will be evident in the future solely, thus, they are not that important at present.

Counter Arguments

Nevertheless, many researchers can determine the number of advantages and causes for this particular behavior regarding nature and non-human living beings. Many philosophers argue that people kill animals for food, which is their natural need and instinct imposed on them by nature. Moreover, some of them emphasize the fact that people can consume the meat of animals grown on the farms due to the fact that these animals have been bred for this purpose solely and such creatures have a boring life full of deprivation (Singer, 2014).

Also, many thinkers argued that animals should not be equated with humans because they cannot have desires for the future, they do not plan anything, and do not have the same thinking processes as people do. Therefore, a reasonable and decent person can conduct experiments on a weaker species that is incapable of such complex processes. Those philosophers who support this position believe that human life is more important than that of animals; thus, it can be used for the benefit of people and for improving their lives.

In terms of environmental effects and their impacts, many people claim that the benefits of using fossil fuels are underappreciated. In particular, burning fossil fuels is cost-efficient and feasible. The opportunity to produce large amounts of energy through this procedure provides manufacturers and other parties involved with greater financial opportunities, which will further result in the produced goods for the people (Hayward, 2012). Thus, following this type of reasoning, burning fossil fuels brings immediate benefits for the current population, and the consequences to climate, nature, and animals can be considered and eliminated further after the benefits have been accumulated.

In addition, the main argument that drives not only philosophers but also ordinary people is that humans are the crown of nature and humans are much more important than any other living beings. Thus, any animal problem (suffering, violence towards them, or killing) is less significant than the ones that a person experiences. Therefore, if a problem faced by a human being can be solved by using another less important creature (an animal), then it is worth using it for the good of people (Singer, 2014). In that matter, the suffering of animals does not matter nor does their life, if they are used for resolving a more important problem related to humanity.


Despite these counterarguments, it is worth noting that animals are living beings, and causing pain in a feeling creature is not right at its core. According to such philosophers as Regan (2014), an animal will resist as well as any person if its life is in danger. Despite the fact that the animal does not realize the existence of such a state as being alive, it does not want to die or get hurt; therefore, its death will be violent, which undermines all moral principles about not causing harm. The essence of the philosophical problem lies in the fact that killing a sentient being is evil because it has the right to life as well as any individual (Singer, 2014). In turn, killing living beings for the sake of food suggests that there is a tendency in humans to use animals as objects for satisfying their own unimportant goals and needs (except for occurrences in which a person will die if he or she does not eat an animal).

The same understanding can be applied to human imposed climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. The consequences for future generations might be adverse and irreversible; therefore, disregarding them implies the presence of egoistic reasons. As mentioned by Gardiner (2014), the financial aspects are relished by the current population while the detrimental effects of climate change will be experienced in the long-term. For that reason, it can be stated that intentional overlooking of the aspects of climate change indicates not only the ignorance but also the indifference of people to those generations (and species) that will live in this environment. It can be assumed that such concentration on self-interest is a worrying sign of the population that cares about satisfying their immediate needs solely.


Thus, it can be concluded that the attitude of people to animals and the environment are linked directly to the very essence of philosophy, in particular, the determination of the essence of people, their life, activities, and role in the world. The liberation of animals from violence requires altruism from the side of humans and refusal to meet the unjustified desires. People have a specific form of power over the animal and natural world to be able to preserve and maintain it and not to oppress animals and consume resources until the natural setting, in which future generations will have to live, is altered irrevocably. If such tyranny is continued and humans will not overcome their selfish considerations, it will mean that modern people have not yet come to an understanding of ethics and its essence. However, the cessation of the exploitation of nature and other living beings will mean that people comprehend the immorality of their position and it will be gradually replaced by sensible altruism.


Abbey, R. (2016). Putting cruelty first: Exploring Judith Shklar’s liberalism of fear for animal ethics. Politics and Animals, 25-36.

Frey, R. G. (2014). Moral standing, the value of lives, and speciesism. In H. LaFollete (Ed.), Ethics in practice: An anthology (pp. 181-191). Wiley-Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Gardiner, S. (2014). Perfect moral storm: Climate change, intergenerational ethics, and the problem of moral corruption. In H. LaFollete (Ed.), Ethics in practice: An anthology (pp. 620-630). Wiley-Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Hayward, T. (2012). Climate change and ethics. Nature Climate Change, 2, 843-848.

Regan, T. (2014). The case for animal rights. In H. LaFollete (Ed.), Ethics in practice: An anthology (pp. 192-19). Wiley-Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Schmidtz, D. (2014). A place for cost-benefit analysis. In H. LaFollete (Ed.), Ethics in practice: An anthology (pp. 602-610). Wiley-Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Singer, P. (2014). All animals are equal. In H. LaFollete (Ed.), Ethics in practice: An anthology (pp. 172-180). Wiley-Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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