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Climate, Collective Action and Individual Ethical Obligations

Author

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  • Marion Hourdequin

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Marion Hourdequin, 2010. "Climate, Collective Action and Individual Ethical Obligations," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 19(4), pages 423-464, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev19:ev1920
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    Cited by:

    1. Baylor Johnson, 2011. "The Possibility of a Joint Communiqué: My Response to Hourdequin," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 20(2), pages 147-156, May.
    2. Ty Raterman, 2012. "Bearing the Weight of the World: On the Extent of an Individual's Environmental Responsibility," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 21(4), pages 417-436, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • Q21 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water

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