Three professors urged an audience of about 60 on Tuesday to consider the ethical and moral implications of climate change, in addition to the obvious scientific challenges.
"We have to turn up the volume in the U.S. on the moral and ethical dimensions of this issue," said Donald A. Brown, associate professor of environmental ethics, science and law.
The Campus Sustainability Office of the Office of Physical Plant organized the panel discussion between three Penn State professors who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, where 194 international representatives met for two weeks in December to negotiate international agreements on various climate issues.
The panel was comprised of professors Brown, Nancy Tuana and Petra Tschakert, who discussed the conference's resulting policies and their opinions of the outcomes. Held in Memorial Lounge of Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, the discussion was also digitally broadcast online.
Brown called himself the pessimist of the panel. COP15 represented the twentieth year of failure to secure a meaningful global solution to climate change, he said.
Tuana said she agreed. But she did see hope for future negotiations.
"A lot more attention was paid to the fact that this is an issue of extreme ethical impact," said Tuana, professor of philosophy; science, technology and society; and Women's Studies. "Lives are being already negatively impacted, and newer documents are reflecting that these are ethical issues."
Kenneth Davis, meteorology professor and audience member, also agreed.
"Focusing on the ethical aspect is critical," Davis said. "We are continually deceived to think of this as a scientific debate."
Those nations that are affected the most are those who cannot protect themselves, panelists said, and developed countries like America have an obligation to them.
After the discussion, an audience member viewing it online asked about "Climategate," a controversy over illegally obtained e-mail correspondence about climate change research.
"No one in the governments takes seriously the e-mail debacle," Brown said.
Some audience members said they appreciated the emphasis on the ethical implications of climate change.
"They explained what is missed in the media," Daniel Sarmiento (graduate-meteorology) said. "It was a lot of pessimism, but that's understandable."
The panelists will be holding another discussion on the same topic for the community on Feb. 13 in the Schlow Centre Region Library, 100 E. Beaver Ave.