Abstract
The actions performed by individuals, as consumers and citizens, have aggregate negative consequences for the environment. The question asked in this paper is to what extent it is reasonable to hold individuals and institutions responsible for environmental problems. A distinction is made between backward-looking and forward-looking responsibility. Previously, individuals were not seen as being responsible for environmental problems, but an idea that is now sometimes implicitly or explicitly embraced in the public debate on environmental problems is that individuals are appropriate targets for blame when they perform actions that are harmful to the environment. This idea is criticized in this paper. It is argued that instead of blaming individuals for performing actions that are not environmentally friendly we should ascribe forward-looking responsibility to individuals, a notion that focuses more on capacity and resources than causation and blameworthiness. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that a great share of forward-looking responsibility should also be ascribed to institutional agents, primarily governments and corporations. The urge to ascribe forward-looking responsibility to institutional agents is motivated by the efficiency aim of responsibility distributions. Simply put, if responsibility is ascribed to governments and corporations there is a better chance of creating a society in which the opportunities to act in an environmentally friendly way increase.
Keywords Individual responsibility  Environmental problems  Ethical consumers  Forward-looking responsibility  Institutional responsibility
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-008-9134-5
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References found in this work BETA

Responsibility and Global Justice: A Social Connection Model.Iris Marion Young - 2006 - Social Philosophy and Policy 23 (1):102-130.
It's Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2005 - In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong & Richard Howarth (eds.), Perspectives on Climate Change. Elsevier. pp. 221–253.
Distributing Responsibilities.David Miller - 2001 - Journal of Political Philosophy 9 (4):453–471.

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Citations of this work BETA

Is There an Obligation to Reduce One’s Individual Carbon Footprint?Anne Schwenkenbecher - 2014 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 17 (2):168-188.
Emotional Engineers: Toward Morally Responsible Design. [REVIEW]Sabine Roeser - 2012 - Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (1):103-115.

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