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How Demanding is Our Climate Duty? An Application of the No-Harm Principle to Individual Emissions

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This article provides theoretical foundations to the widespread intuition that an individual duty to reduce one's carbon emissions should not be overly demanding, and should leave some space to personal life-projects. It does so by looking into the moral structure of aggregative problems such as climate change, and argues that contributing to climate change is less wrong than causing the same amount of harm in paradigm cases of harm-doing. It follows that strong agent-relative reasons, such as consideration of the agent's most important life-projects, are likely sometimes to outweigh the reasons for refraining from contributing to climate change, especially when there is no alternative course of action. This, however, does not mean that individual carbon-emitters are off the hook, since a lot can be done to reduce carbon emissions without jeopardising one's most important life-projects.
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Keywords: Ethics; climate change; demandingness; individual duties; no-harm principle

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 1.933. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.493.
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