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Ethical Problems of a long-term global energy supply

  • Abstract:
    Due to the emerging depletion of the world’s natural oil and gas resources as well as the greenhouse effect, the question of energy has become one of the 21st century’s key issues. Humankind is facing the global challenge of developing long-term alternatives for the energy systems that are presently dominated by fossil fuels. Nuclear energy, which is currently the most important and technologically most perfected alternative, is disputed in many countries of the industrialized world due to its high risk potential and the complex of problems regarding the final disposal.

    The subsequent problems related to the adjustment of the energy systems will have manifold impacts on politics and society worldwide, which can hardly be foreseen at the current moment. Hence, the energy question is not an entirely physical-technological problem, which could be solved solely by means of engineering, but also and rather foremost a social political problem carrying numerous ethical implications.

    On the basis of scientifically justified preconditions, the project was aimed at bringing out the ethical problems related to the energy question and at making the philosophical discourse benefit from them. The problem of a long-term responsibility towards future generations as well as the distributive justice regarding the chances and risks of the energy systems analyzed were in the focus of the project.

    From a list of criteria consisting of the ecological and social harmlessness, the sustainability, distributive justice as well as the economical aspects, different possibilities regarding energy policy were analyzed with a view to their future potential. Within this scope, it was analyzed in particular, which realistic contribution to the worldwide energy supply regenerative energies can make in the future.

  • Members of the project group:
    Prof. Dr. phil. Carl Friedrich Gethmann
    Institute for Philosophy, University of Essen

    Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Klaus Heinloth
    Physics Institute, University of Bonn

    Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. h.c. Christian Streffer
    Institute for Science and Ethics, Essen


  • Contributing:
    Dr. jur. Klaus Rumpff



  • Funding:
    Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft


  • Funding period:
    August 2001 - Juli 2003


  • Publications:
    Christian Streffer / Carl Friedrich Gethmann / Klaus Heinloth / Klaus Rumpff / Andreas Witt: Ethische Probleme einer langfristigen globalen Energieversorgung. Berlin, New York 2005.

    Christian Streffer / Andreas Witt: Ethische Probleme einer langfristigen globalen Energieversorgung. In: Jahrbuch für Wissenschaft und Ethik, Bd. 9 (2004), 379-407.
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