Lawrence Torcello is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology. He specializes in social and political philosophy, moral theory, and applied ethics. His current research interests focus on democratic theory, liberalism, and issues of climate justice. Recent work explores the moral implications of climate change denialism and other forms of science denial. Photo: Rochester Institute of Technology

By Lawrence Torcello
29 April 2017

(The Guardian) – Most of us have wondered about the human context of past crimes against humanity: why didn’t more people intervene? How could so many pretend not to know? To be sure, crimes against humanity are not always easy to identify while they unfold.

We need some time to reflect and to analyze, even when our reasoning suggests that large-scale human suffering and death are imminent. The principled condemnation of large-scale atrocity is, too often, a luxury of hindsight.

I’m a climate alarmist because there is no morally responsible way to downplay the dangers that negligent policies – expected to accelerate human-caused climate change – pose to humankind.

There can be no greater crime against humanity than the foreseeable, and methodical, destruction of conditions that make human life possible. Hindsight isn’t necessary.

Scientists confirm, in overwhelming consensus, the fundamental facts that make anthropogenic global warming a clear and present threat to humanity and other species.

There is no amount of ideological deception capable of altering basic physics, chemistry, and biology. It is ethically untenable for intelligent people to look the other way while elected officials deny reality, and our opportunity to avoid catastrophe slips away.

We know that the continued acceleration of climate change will bring more droughts, rising seas, more extreme weather, longer forest fire seasons, and destructive storm surges. This in turn would lead to more water stress, crop failures, poverty, starvation, warfare, and ever worsening refugee crises.

We know that the warming already achieved is expected to displace millions of people in low lying regions. Indeed, at our current rate of warming segments of the Middle East, Africa, and south Asia will likely become uninhabitable for future generations.

This is not a problem for the distant future. People reading this right now risk dying of impacts related to climate change. Anyone who claims global warming is not catastrophic is ill informed – or playing a disingenuous game of privilege. [more]

Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity


  1. Ed in rural Ontario said...

    Thank you for this clear and coherent statement on the ethics of climate change.  


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