Why Leave the Car at Home, If That Doesn’t Save the Climate?

Grazer Philosophische Studien 97 (4):693-704 (2020)
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Why take individual action against collectively caused evils such as climate change? Prima facie, one’s individual contribution may seem to make a negligible difference at best. Consequentialists as well as consequence-sensitive nonconsequentialists should be interested in whether a consequence-based justification for taking individual climate action can be found nonetheless. The author argues that even though individual agents are able to make a non-zero difference in expectation, the altruistic expected value may be so small as to be insufficiently worthwhile, given the agents’ opportunity cost. In this case, altruistic agents may face a Prisoner’s Dilemma, i.e. an altruistic public goods problem. Hence, the consequence-based account of why to leave one’s car at home could be vindicated if the PD can be solved in a consequence-based way. The author offers tentative grounds for optimism about solving the PD in a consequence-based way, and for acting accordingly.



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