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Climate Change and Individual Responsibility: A Reply to Johnson

  • Marion Hourdequin
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    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.

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    Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

    Volume (Year): 20 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 2 (May)
    Pages: 157-162

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    Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev20:ev2008
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.erica.demon.co.uk

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    1. Baylor L. Johnson, 2003. "Ethical Obligations in a Tragedy of the Commons," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 12(3), pages 271-287, August.
    2. Elinor Ostrom, 2010. "Analyzing collective action," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 41(s1), pages 155-166, November.
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