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A look at the ethics of climate change policy and how this influences decisions about whether to mitigate or adapt.

In the framing of climate mitigation or adaptation policies a choice may eventually have to be made between prioritising the environment or prioritising concern for the people who live in it, especially the global poor. This ethical choice has been consistently and repeatedly underplayed in global institutional climate change discourse for more than two decades. The oft-repeated ideal of mitigating climate change while at the same time achieving strong economic growth and feeding the poor has obscured the realities of the harsh political and ethical choices to be made at individual, national and global levels. However, close examination of IPCC and other key reports indicates a preference for protecting the environment even at the cost of increased or extended poverty for millions of vulnerable people in the present and near future in particular. For some this is motivated by a genuine belief that the better the environment is protected the better the quality of life for all people in the future. For others, however, there is an antipathy towards the human race, captured in the phrase: ‘The real enemy then is humanity itself’

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