Climate change and negative duties
POLITICS 32:1-9 (2012)
AbstractIt is widely accepted by the scientific community and beyond that human beings are primarily responsible for climate change and that climate change has brought with it a number of real problems. These problems include, but are not limited to, greater threats to coastal communities, greater risk of famine, and greater risk that tropical diseases may spread to new territory. In keeping with J. S. Mill's 'Harm Principle', green political theorists often respond that if we are contributing a harm to others in contributing to climate change and its negative effects, we then have a negative duty to assist those we have harmed and to reduce our carbon emissions. In this paper, I will take seriously negative duties stemming from a contribution to climate change and demonstrate that our negative duties do not demand that we necessarily end our contribution to climate change if we were able to compensate those who may be affected by climate change. Thus, the conclusion of many green political theorists - that we must reduce our carbon emissions - does not necessarily follow from the view that humans are primarily responsible for climate change and its attended ill effects.
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