Individual Compensatory Duties for Historical Emissions and the Dead-Polluters Objection

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 32 (4):591-609 (2019)
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Debates about individual responsibility for climate change revolve mainly around individual mitigation duties. Mitigation duties concern future impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, climate change has already caused important harms and it is foreseeable that it will cause more in the future, in spite of our best efforts. Thus, arguably, individuals might also have duties related to those harms. In this paper, I address the question of whether individuals are obligated to provide compensation for climate related harms that have already occurred. I explore two possible strategies to answer that question. The straightforward strategy answers in the affirmative. Two approaches embrace this strategy: the ‘ecological citizenship’ approach and the benefits-based approach. I challenge those two approaches and rule out an affirmative answer. The alternative strategy answers in the negative but provides a way to respond to why currently living individuals should pay for burdens created for past individuals. Two possible approaches embrace this alternative: the community-based approach and my own state-based benefits approach. I will argue that individual duties do not fall under the realm of compensatory justice, but they have nonetheless a duty to bear compensatory burdens allocated to their states.



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Laura Garcia-Portela
University of Graz

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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Responsibility for Justice.Iris Marion Young - 2011 - Oxford University Press USA.

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