Climate Change and Professional Responsibility: A Declaration of Helsinki for Engineers

Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (5):1431-1452 (2017)
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Abstract

In this paper, we argue that the professional engineering institutions ought to develop a Declaration of Climate Action. Climate change is a serious global problem, and the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from industries that are enabled by engineers and represented by the engineering professional institutions. If the professional institutions take seriously the claim that a profession should be self-regulating, with codes of ethics that go beyond mere obedience to the law, and if they take their own ethical codes seriously, recognising their responsibility to the public and to future generations, the professional institutions ought to develop a declaration for engineers, addressing climate change. Our argument here is largely inspired by the history of the Declaration of Helsinki. The Declaration of Helsinki was created by the medical profession for the profession, and it held physicians to a higher standard of ethical conduct than was found in the legal framework of individual countries. Although it was not originally a legal document, the influence of the Declaration can be seen in the fact that it is now enshrined in law in a number of different countries. Thus, we argue that the engineering profession could, and should, play a significant role in the abatement of climate change by making changes within the profession. If the engineering profession sets strict standards for professional engineers, with sanctions for those who refuse to comply, this could have a significant impact in relation to our efforts to develop a coordinated response to climate change.

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Author Profiles

Helen Morley
University of Leeds
Rob Lawlor
University of Leeds

References found in this work

The Tragedy of the Commons.Garrett Hardin - 1968 - Science 162 (3859):1243-1248.
It's Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2005 - In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong & Richard B. Howarth (eds.), Perspectives on Climate Change. Elsevier. pp. 221–253.
Collectives' Duties and Collectivisation Duties.Stephanie Collins - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (2):231-248.

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