Should less developed countries use energy sources that harm the environment?

Group 8


Developed countries such as the USA and UK have been using large amounts of carbon based fuels since the industrial revolution. The majority of historical carbon emissions have been as a result of industrialisation in western society. However, we now realise that this is causing climate change that will soon be irreversible. As poorer countries catch up in their development, their populations require more and more energy to power their improving lifestyles. Inevitably, with this change, fossil fuel use is increasing also.

This article addresses two main issues that can be challenging to the developing and emerging countries. Whilst trying to expand access to energy in any means, there may be difficulties in trying to transition into a clean, low-carbon energy system. Starting with the obvious point regarding fairness and equality , less developed countries should be allowed freedom to develop and industrialise without limitation; countries of western society who have already industrialised were not limited so it would be unfair to limit those who have not yet had the chance.

Industrialisation will help to improve the skill set of the average low-skilled worker, as the process is gradual, with many small changes introduced over time. Skipping parts of the industrialisation process could lead to knowledge gaps and lack of skilled workers available. This could lead to high levels of unemployment if the average worker is not skilled enough, and will cost the country a lot of money (which they may not have) in training these workers up to the level required.

Gradual development, with gradual training and increased knowledge of communities and workers will lead to better development as a whole.

Skipping development may also cause confusion within a developing country. It is human nature to actively avoid change, as people do not like to be uncertain about the future, and rather stick to what they know and can control. The best way to facilitate change is to slowly introduce it step by step, as to allow for its integration into society. This will create the least resistance and will lead to a more developed society as a whole. In addition to this, although it may harm the environment, it will be beneficial for both the developed and developing countries. With the aid of fossil fuels, developing countries will be able to use  this resource as a means of accelerating their industrial development. Once the economy is being gradually developed, the country is able to transition easily into using renewable resources as the availability of a cleaner energy becomes more abundant. At a micro level perspective, the situation of  developing countries is in many ways more challenging than developed countries. Not only are there limited and resource constraints, but the majority of the population may lack access to even basic energy services such as running clean water or enough electricity to run the whole village. The energy outlook is currently debatable to say the least. Governments of developing countries may be concerned about economic growth and the availability of the energy resources, developed countries may be concerned more about the negative impact on the environment that may be a global threat in the near future.

Less developed countries are using more fossil fuels than more developed countries. China is one of the fastest growing economies and they produce most of their electricity by burning coal.

The world bank estimates that an increase of 2 degrees would cost India 5% of its GDP. This shows that although industrialisation is good for developing economies, it is not in their economic interest to ignore the issue of climate change. Many of the poorest countries will suffer the worst effects of climate change.

Low carbon alternatives such as renewables and nuclear are available and must be utilised by developing countries so that global emissions can be reduced eventually to zero. Moreover, an increase in using renewable energy sources will not only provide cleaner energy, but it will also boost the development of the country.

By looking at how developed countries have caused such pollution in their process, developing countries may look at their mistakes and avoid causing more harm to the environment, therefore going for sustainable energy sources faster.

Human exposures to various chemical combinations and toxins can be a factor in a range of chronic health conditions and diseases. This can lower the life expectancy of humans, as well as increasing infant mortality rates.

Industrial waste greatly affects our environment, polluting natural resources, and harming or destroying ecosystems, as well as increasing global warming. Water resources such as rivers and open oceans become contaminated when industries lay their waste in them, this could potentially affect agriculture, therefore reducing the quality of food which wildlife and humans consume, which negatively affects our health.

Global warming has seen a rather huge increase due to the smoke and greenhouse gases that industries release, This may cause the extinction of some animals and possibly resulting in natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis.

If such cases occur, the results of climate change and global warming will completely reverse the development of countries. Stopping economic growth, and having those countries spend more resources on fixing the problem instead of further development.

Initial Decision

Since the side-effects outweigh the benefits, we are against it.

2 thoughts on “Should less developed countries use energy sources that harm the environment?

  1. The problem is clearly stated, and there is a clear dilemma.

    However, your article didn’t have ethical support for or against. It would have been nice to have a clear for and against sections.

    For assignment Two, you MUST focus on developing the ethical support.

    For example, in terms of the argument for developing countries being allowed to use fossil fuels, there is the issue of fairness, which can lend itself to deontological support. Fairness is clearly supported by virtue ethics too.
    In the argument against, there is utilitarianism – is this an action leading to the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Developing countries are more likely to suffer the impacts of climate change.
    Moreover, why should developing countries be put to the back of the queue with old technologies when they can jump straight to the future with a clean energy generating technology. A good argument could be made for care ethics where established wind energy leaders could share their technology with developing countries. And there is also the virtue of fairness, as greener energy generation can be decentralized.

    Advice for Assignment Two:
    Develop the ethical support for both sides of the dilemma! PLEASE!

  2. Interesting article. It is always interesting how people frame this argument as one or the other forgetting that these LEDCs are the one who feel the most affect of climate change. It is like shooting themselves in the foot!

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