The Trolley Problem is a set of ethical dilemma scenarios developed by British philosopher Philippa Foot in 1967.
Assume you are the driver of an out of control train. Ahead of you on the main track there are five people tied up and unable to move to safety. If you pull a lever the train will barrel down an alternate track to which one person is tied, unable to move. No matter what you choose you will be safe.
What do you choose?
Now re-imagine the Trolley Problem in terms of Climate Change
You are driving the climate change train. Ahead of you trapped on the main track is every living creature on earth including insects and plants. If you choose this route no one will be asked to conserve, deployment of renewables will continue but at a slower pace, the climate will continue to warm, severe weather events will become more common, sea levels will rise, the air will eventually become unbreathable and the dire effects of climate change will become irreversible. Eventually everyone will suffer.
But, aha – there is an alternate route and on this route is, again, every living creature on earth including insects and plants. If you choose this route most people will be temporarily inconvenienced by an initial increase in the cost of energy as the switch to renewables is accelerated and conservation habits settle in and a few will see lower profits from coal, oil and natural gas as they make the technology switch but in the end all will be better off.
Here are your choices:
A: Do nothing and allow climate change to barrel ahead, the air to be poisoned, the climate to warm, extreme weather events to become more common and future attempts to ameliorate the damage to be unmanageably expensive. This choice does not immediately inconvenience anyone and it is profitable for a few. Eventually, of course, it inconveniences everyone and is costly for all.
B: Pull the lever and barrel down the alternate track where everyone pays a little more initially as renewables are deployed and all must learn to conserve energy while a few suffer lower profits initially but everyone is saved from future disaster.
What do you choose?