Through most of the twentieth century, the influence of Darwin on the philosophical field of ethics was negligible. Things changed noticeably in the last couple of decades or so of that century, and now “evolutionary ethics” – which had lain dormant since Darwin’s contemporary Herbert Spencer – is a lively and hotly debated topic. There are several Darwinian theses that might have bearing on moral philosophy.
Humans are the product of natural selection.
(i) + Humans have been forged by that process to be social organisms.
(ii) + Among the mechanisms that govern that human sociality is an innate moral sense.
The first two are beyond serious question, but the last – moral nativism – can be reasonably doubted. It is a plausible counterclaim that the human tendency to engage in moral assessment (of oneself and others) is not a discrete psychological adaptation but a learned cultural trait that depends on psychological capacities that evolved for other purposes. Darwin himself, however, arguably endorsed all three theses; he possibly advocates (iii) in The Descent of Man:
I fully subscribe to the judgment of those writers who maintain that of all the differences between man and the lower animals, the moral sense or conscience is by far the most important…. [A]ny animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts, the parental and filial affections being here included, would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers had become as well, or nearly as well developed, as in man.
Bioenergy has a significant greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential, provided that the resources are developed sustainably and that efficient bioenergy systems are used. Certain current systems and key future options including perennial cropping systems, use of biomass residues and wastes and advanced conversion systems are able to deliver 80 to 90% emission reductions compared to the fossil energy baseline. However, land use conversion and forest management that lead to a loss of carbon stocks (direct) in addition to indirect land use change (d+iLUC) effects can lessen, and in some cases more than neutralize, the net positive GHG mitigation impacts. Impacts of climate change through temperature increases, rainfall pattern changes and increased frequency of extreme events will influence and interact with biomass resource potential. This interaction is still poorly understood, but it is likely to exhibit strong regional differences. Climate change impacts on biomass feedstock production exist but if global temperature rise is limited to less than 2°C compared with the pre-industrial record, it may pose few constraints. Combining adaptation measures with biomass resource production can offer more sustainable opportunities for bioenergy and perennial cropping systems.
Biomass is a primary source of food, fodder and fibre and as a renewable energy (RE) source provided about 10.2% (50.3 EJ) of global total primary energy supply (TPES) in 2008. Traditional use of wood, straws, charcoal, dung and other manures for cooking, space heating and lighting by generally poorer populations in developing countries accounts for about 30.7 EJ, and another 20 to 40% occurs in unaccounted informal sectors including charcoal production and distribution.
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