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Environmental Values

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Environmental Values

Climate, Collective Action and Individual Ethical Obligations

Marion Hourdequin

Environmental Values 19 (2010): 443-464. doi: 10.3197/096327110X531552


Both Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Baylor Johnson hold that under current circumstances, individuals lack obligations to reduce their personal contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson argues that climate change has the structure of a tragedy of the commons, and that there is no unilateral obligation to reduce emissions in a commons. Against Johnson, I articulate two rationales for an individual obligation to reduce one's greenhouse gas emissions. I first discuss moral integrity, which recommends congruence between one's actions and positions at the personal and political levels. Second, I draw on a Confucian, relational conception of persons to offer a critique of the collective action/tragedy of the commons framework itself. Under the relational conception, commons problems can be reconceptualised so as to dissolve the stark contrast between the individually and the collectively rational. This perspective can inform our approach to climate change and help reconcile individual and political action to mitigate it.


Climate change, collective action, Confucius, commons, environmental ethics

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Ethical Obligations in a Tragedy of the Commons. Baylor L. Johnson

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Lessons Learned. Katie McShane
The Possibility of a Joint Communiqué: My Response to Hourdequin. Baylor Johnson
Climate Change and Individual Responsibility: A Reply to Johnson. Marion Hourdequin
Bystanding and Climate Change. Carol Booth
Bearing the Weight of the World: On the Extent of an Individual’s Environmental Responsibility. Ty Raterman

Environmental Stewardship, Moral Psychology and Gardens. Marcello di Paola

Radically Non-Ideal Climate Politics and the Obligation to at Least Vote Green. Aaron Maltais

Addressing Needs in the Search for Sustainable Development: A Proposal for Needs-Based Scenario Building. Catherine Jolibert, Jouni Paavola and Felix Rauschmeyer

Moderate Emissions Grandfathering. Carl Knight

Managing Climate Change: Shifting Roles for NGOs in the Climate Negotiations. Chandra Lal Pandey

The Fundamental Role of Large-Scale Trust Building in Natural Resource Management. Karni Marcus

Game Theory and the Self-Fulfilling Climate Tragedy. Matthew Kopec

Sharing Responsibility for Divesting from Fossil Fuels. Eric S. Godoy

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

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