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Climate Change and Individual Responsibility: A Reply to Johnson

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  • Marion Hourdequin

Abstract

Can unilateral action be an effective response to global climate change? Baylor Johnson worries that a focus on unilateral action by individuals will detract from efforts to secure collective agreements to address the problem. Although Johnson and I agree that individuals have some obligation to reduce their personal emissions, we differ in the degree to which we see personal reductions as effective in spurring broader change. I argue that 'unilateral reductions' can have communicative value and that they can change the structure of collective action problems, making such problems easier to solve. Since collective action problems are much less tractable where individuals abide by the tenets of traditional game theory and much more tractable where individuals are oriented to cooperate and to trust that others will reciprocate, we need moral norms that promote individual restraint in exploitation of the commons, and we ought ourselves to abide by those norms.

Suggested Citation

  • Marion Hourdequin, 2011. "Climate Change and Individual Responsibility: A Reply to Johnson," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 20(2), pages 157-162, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev20:ev2008
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Elinor Ostrom, 2010. "Analyzing collective action," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 41(s1), pages 155-166, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carol Booth, 2012. "Bystanding and Climate Change," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 21(4), pages 397-416, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Climate change; collective action; moral obligation; tragedy of the commons; unilateral action;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water

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