President Obama said in his inaugural speech on Monday that:

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

I propose to start a discussion about climate change, its causes and effects, the uncertainties in our understanding of the causes and effects, what might be done to mitigate its effects, and how business might claim the promise of the new technology that will be needed.

The US EPA defines global warming as “the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth’s surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change.” EPA defines climate change as “any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.” NASA asserts that the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago is also the beginning of human civilization. NASA asserts that the “current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.”

Here is a question to start the discussion. For now, any reply must be addressed to me ( and must include the words “Climate Change” in the subject line. The question is raised by the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development in 1987. Do we, the people now living on Earth, owe any duty to future generations to mitigate climate change?