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Environmental Values

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

Augustin Fragnière

Environmental Values 27 (2018): 645-663. doi: 10.3197/096327118X15343388356365

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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.


Ethics, climate change, no-harm principle, individual duties, demandingness

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Climate, Collective Action and Individual Ethical Obligations. Marion Hourdequin

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

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

Bearing the Weight of the World: On the Extent of an Individual’s Environmental Responsibility. Ty Raterman

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Grounding Words and Flights of Imagination. Tom Greaves

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