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

TitleClimate Change and Professional Responsibility: A Declaration of Helsinki for Engineers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLawlor, R, Morley, H
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Date PublishedJan-10-2017
ISSN Number1353-3452
AbstractIn 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 (and also recognising a duty of “responsible leadership”), 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.