Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Dealing with climate change an ethical issue?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | May 5, 2014 1:52 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, May 6, 2014:

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The effects of climate change are real, already having an impact, and will get worse unless the world finds a way to reduce greenhouse gases derived from burning fossil fuels.  Those are the conclusions of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment being released Tuesday. 

The report says ice caps are melting, water supplies are in jeopardy, extreme weather is becoming more common, and animal and plant species are changing how and where they live.

The assessment also warned that there could less food available to the world's population if current conditions persists.

The Fifth Assessment differs somewhat from the previous four reports that went out between 1990 and 2007.  Those assessments provided guidance for nations greenhouse gas reduction targets along economic lines.  The latest report also includes the ethical and moral reasons the world and especially the nation’s with strong economies have a responsibility to confront climate change.

One of the contributing authors to that section of the IPCC report appears on Tuesday's Smart Talk.

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Dr. Donald Brown

Dr. Donald Brown is a Scholar and Professor of Sustainability Ethics and Law at Widener School of Law in Harrisburg and has also authored several books on the topic.

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-06 08:14


    Yeah, but these people who claim there is global warming are scientists in the field -- why should we trust THEM? We've had a cold winter and a cool spring, isn't that proof that there is no global warming? If I want information on global warming, I'm going to go to Sean Hannity, he'll reinforce what I already believe.


    • Professor Brown img 2014-05-06 11:59

      Several issues were raised by comments on today's program that I would like to respond to. Lee raises a question about who we get information from. Tot this I would respond by saying that all people for something this technically complicated should look initially to the most prestige scientific organizations and they have all spoken in support of the consensus view.

      Jim raises a question about whether the US can make a difference given the fact that some countries are continuing to emit large amounts of ghg. I would say the United States is still the largest problem in terms of historical and per capita emissions and the US is only being asked to reduce its emissions to its fair share and the failure to do this will result in great harm to people around the world.

      I agree with Lisa that we need to become a leader in alternative energy.

      Thomas, the claim that the scientific community agreed in the 1970s that we were headed into an ice age is not true even if some scientists said that, moreover there was no massive scientific effort back then to get the scientific community to review the entire scientific literature as we have done in the last 20 years.

      David mentions that pollution from China is harming us, which is true particularly in regard to ghgs. But our ghgs are also harming the world greatly.

      Thomas also asks about population. The international community is not raising questions of population as strongly as it should in my view. But regardless of population levels, the US still has the highest per capita levels of ghg in the world except Australia.

      Lisa asks why the morality issues is not the main focus if we have so many Christians in the United States. My response is: Good question. Yet one cannot understand what has happened in the United States without understanding the role that the climate change disinformation campaign has played.

      Dan commented on the need for better more-efficient technology. I agree completely but hoping for technology must not be the only response. We need carbon cutting law which will drive the technology.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-06 08:17

    I have no doubt that human based climate change is real and a major concern. But, I wonder if there is much that we in the west can do to stop it. Developing countries like China, Vietnam, Brazil, etc. are cutting down forests and bringing new coal plants online all the time. In light of this, will what we in the west do make much of a difference?


    • Lisa img 2014-05-06 08:22

      Of course we need to do something! We need to become a leader in alternative energy and show these developing countries that we have learned from our energy mistakes. If we do not, we cannot expect them to make choices that we are unwilling to make ourselves.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-06 08:22

    i think all have short the late 1970's everyone talked of a new ice age. after a decade or so of warmer after the last few years the earth is cooling, and lower solar activity and there is again talk of global cooling.....once again i think it depends on what agenda you espouse. i would like you to comment.

    thank you,

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-06 08:24

    I believe that alot of our manufacturing also left our country because to skirt US environmental laws.
    But with the manufacturing ending up in china,the irony is that chinas pollution migrates back to the US.


  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-06 08:31

    Since man made pollutants take time to build up,and we experience the effects years later.
    Ive always wondered the effects of WW2,the rapid manufacturing for all types of weaponary,all of the fuels to power and move the war machines,the resulting fires,and of all of the sea going sunken vessels that of course leaked untold fuels and oils.
    What would the several years of world war would have been the equivalent to say peace time manufacturing.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-06 08:38

    Is the IPCC ever going to address overpopulation?, or are we not allowed to talk about that ?


  • Lisa img 2014-05-06 08:49

    If you consider our country to be a Christian country, then why is the morality issue not the primary focus? Why is the economic issue always brought up by the same people who would have us do nothing to reduce our emissions as they say a pray at their public government meeting? You cannot be a Christian of true conscience if you only consider the economic impact to yourself/our country. Shame on those who use economics to hide behind the harm they are doing to their fellow human beings!

  • Dan S img 2014-05-06 09:15

    We can't require people to give up any hope of having washing machines or electric lights so that we can keep on using our SUVs and jet planes. We must find ways to reduce the impact our lifestyle has on our resources. As a bonus if we in the US can develop more efficient devices those devices will create new and valuable exports. Companies and country's who can produce products more efficiently reduce expenses and gain an advantage in the marketplace. A policy of protecting old wasteful industries and insisting on our "right" to use wasteful and polluting products will inevitably lead to disaster both for our environment and our economy.

  • thinkwrite img 2014-05-06 19:09

    I think this is the most frightening program on global warming that I have ever heard, and not because of some threat caused by the alleged problem, but rather by the ugly sellout of our country on the so-called morality issue. The idea that WE caused this problem, OTHERS are damaged and WE must PAY DAMAGES TO THEM is horrifying to any sane person other than lawyers, which this man happens to be. This is the PERFECT liability lawsuit because there is no end to the lawsuit until the climate of the ENTIRE WORLD changes! Talk about deep pockets! If I ever believed that the climate change issue was all about WEALTH TRANSFER, I do more than ever now. I have heard recently about a push to make "climate denial" a crime. Now I understand where that comes from. I hope to GOD that our country never goes down this road. These people are not satisfied with mere carbon taxes. 100 BILLION dollars a year transferred! Did anybody hear this?

    • Professor Brown img 2014-05-07 14:15

      To the comment from think write, it is scary to think the United States might be liable for climate change damages, no doubt about it. I was simply pointing out that this is a distinct possibility given several legal obligations that nations have under international law. Although this is a complex legal issue, most environmental lawyers that I know believe this is a distinct possibility under an under international law principles such as the "polluter pays principle", the "no-harm principle' and other elements of law. There are also reasons to conclude that law suits will not be successful. The more likely outcome is that the US will be forced to help pay for adaptation in poor countries that have not contributed to the problem because all developed nations have already agreed to do this in principle. Only time will tell. I am not wishing this on the United States, but warning Americans that the failure to act on climate change not only may lead to destructive climate change that harms the US but also financial responsibility. And so the 30 year delay in doing something that has been pushed by certain politicians has potential consequences that needs to be discussed.

      • thinkwrite img 2014-05-07 23:29

        I suppose that you are aware that sun cycles have an effect on the planet. This issue is never mentioned on any PBS type of programming because it opens the scope of the problem to the system being beyond control of even lawyers. All this admission of liability by developed countries might subject them to these damages, when in fact that the role of the sun is not included in the model.

        The bottom line here again is that this sort of liability can not be allowed to advance any further because it would destroy our economy. We are already trillions of dollars in debt. If our country has to pay damages for every natural disaster, this will come from borrowed money. We simply can not go there.