Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (1):177-190 (2015)

Christopher Morgan-Knapp
State University of New York at Binghamton
Does the decision to relax by taking a drive rather than by taking a walk cause harm? In particular, do the additional carbon emissions caused by such a decision make anyone worse off? Recently several philosophers have argued that the answer is no, and on this basis have gone on to claim that act-consequentialism cannot provide a moral reason for individuals to voluntarily reduce their emissions. The reasoning typically consists of two steps. First, the effect of individual emissions on the weather is miniscule: the planet’s meteorological system is so large, and the size of individual emissions so tiny, that whatever impact an individual emission has on the weather must be vanishingly small. Second, vanishingly small impacts aren’t morally relevant because no one could possibly tell the difference between such an impact occurring and it not occurring. In this paper, we show why both steps are mistaken, and hence why act-consequentialism implies that each of us has an individual obligation to do what we can to stop damaging the climate, including by refraining from, or perhaps by purchasing offsets against, our own individual luxury carbon emissions.
Keywords Climate change  harm  consequentialism  thresholds
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-014-9517-9
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References found in this work BETA

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Do I Make a Difference?Shelly Kagan - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (2):105-141.
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.

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Citations of this work BETA

What’s Wrong with Joyguzzling?Ewan Kingston & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (1):169-186.
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Should I Offset or Should I Do More Good?H. Orri Stefansson - forthcoming - Ethics, Policy and Environment.
Is Ignorance of Climate Change Culpable?Philip Robichaud - 2017 - Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (5):1409-1430.
Is there a convincing case for climate veganism?Teea Kortetmäki & Markku Oksanen - 2021 - Agriculture and Human Values 38 (3):729-740.

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