Is there an obligation to reduce one’s individual carbon footprint?

Moral duties concerning climate change mitigation are – for good reasons – conventionally construed as duties of institutional agents, usually states. Yet, in both scholarly debate and political discourse, it has occasionally been argued that the moral duties lie not only with states and institutional agents, but also with individual citizens. This argument has been made with regard to mitigation efforts, especially those reducing greenhouse gases. This paper focuses on the question of whether individuals in industrialized countries have duties to reduce their individual carbon footprint. To this end it will examine three kinds of arguments that have been brought forward against individuals having such duties: the view that individual emissions cause no harm; the view that individual mitigation efforts would have no morally significant effect; and the view that lifestyle changes would be overly-demanding. The paper shows how all three arguments fail to convince. While collective endeavours may be most efficient and effective in bringing about significant changes, there are still good reasons to contribute individually to reducing emission. After all, for most people the choice is between reducing one’s individual emissions and not doing anything. The author hopes this paper shows that one should not opt for the latter.
Keywords Climate Change  Collective Harm Principle  Collective Moral Obligations
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/13698230.2012.692984
 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: 15,831
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
Peter Singer (1972). Famine, Affluence, and Morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Holly Lawford-Smith (2012). The Feasibility of Collectives' Actions. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):453-467.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Stephanie Collins (2013). Collectives' Duties and Collectivisation Duties. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (2):231-248.
Melany Banks (2013). Individual Responsibility for Climate Change. Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (1):42-66.
James Garvey (2010). Climate Change and Moral Outrage. Human Ecology Review 17 (2):96-101.
Steve Vanderheiden (2007). Climate Change and the Challenge of Moral Responsibility. Journal of Philosophical Research 32 (Supplement):85-92.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

77 ( #39,195 of 1,724,865 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #72,195 of 1,724,865 )

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.