A Hippocratic Oath for the Climate

Achieving rapid decarbonization will require action at many scales. But much climate discourse is split between top-down action by national governments and bottom-up action by individuals in their personal lives. To stimulate action at intermediate levels, we ought to integrate decarbonization into the professional codes of groups who have power to shift organizational practices. Some promising groups could include managers, engineers, designers, and planners.

Deep change will require re-orienting the values and training of groups like these to emphasize climate action. This re-orientation will not be easy, but it could be catalyzed if these groups were offered the chance to swear a new Hippocratic oath specifically linked to climate action. Such an oath could be profession-specific, developed in cooperation between members of each profession and climate change experts.

Even a voluntary climate oath would serve several helpful goals. First, its creation would stimulate valuable conversations across a range of professional bodies about how to integrate decarbonization into their work. Second, a ceremony for swearing the oath could create an opportunity to integrate other climate-related events and education into professional schools. Knowing that the oath is coming at graduation could encourage programs to offer more training in climate-related subjects. Third, the oath would hopefully exert an effect on professional behavior, by raising consciousness about opportunities for advancing decarbonization.

The primary actors would be professional schools and membership organizations. Given the interest of many young people in dealing with the climate crisis, there would likely be an appetite among students for making such a commitment. It could serve as a catalyst for both more professional training on climate topics and for a stronger personal drive towards climate action in professional life. And it is a relatively small, easy, and cheap way for schools to take a step forward on this issue.

 

Actor(s)

Professional schools / membership organisations

 

Trigger (intervention)

 

Criticality

 

Feedback Dynamics

 

Timescale and scaleability

 

Resistance

 

Author

Alexander Sayer Gard-Murray

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