Climate Change and Individual Responsibility

The Monist 94 (3):349-368 (2011)
Several philosophers claim that the greenhouse gas emissions from actions like a Sunday drive are so miniscule that they will make no difference whatsoever with regard to anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC) and its expected harms. This paper argues that this claim of individual causal inefficacy is false. First, if AGCC is not reducible at least in part to ordinary actions, then the cause would have to be a metaphysically odd emergent entity. Second, a plausible (dis-)utility calculation reveals that such actions have a not-insignificant amount of expected harm. One upshot is that the near-exclusive focus in the literature on AGCC as a collective action problem is too restricted. The paper also provides several moral psychological explanations of why it is so difficult to comprehend individual responsibility with regard to global phenomena, including a reappraisal of Thomas Nagel’s view of the absurd.
Keywords Climate change  Consequentialism  Deontology  Sinnott-Armstrong  The Absurd
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.5840/monist201194318
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
David Zoller (2015). Moral Responsibility for Distant Collective Harms. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (5):995-1010.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Melany Banks (2013). Individual Responsibility for Climate Change. Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (1):42-66.
Dale Jamieson (2010). Climate Change, Responsibility, and Justice. Science and Engineering Ethics 16 (3):431-445.
Duane Windsor (2009). Global Justice and Global Climate Change. Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 20:23-34.
Steve Vanderheiden (2007). Climate Change and the Challenge of Moral Responsibility. Journal of Philosophical Research 32 (Supplement):85-92.
Monica Aufrecht (2011). Climate Change and Structural Emissions. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (2):201-213.
James Garvey (2010). Climate Change and Moral Outrage. Human Ecology Review 17 (2):96-101.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

359 ( #2,251 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

30 ( #33,492 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.