Volume 33, Issue 3, Fall 2011
“My Emissions Make No Difference”
Climate Change and the Argument from Inconsequentialism
“Since the actions I perform as an individual only have an inconsequential effect on the threat of climate change,” a common argument goes, “it cannot be morally wrong for me to take my car to work everyday or refuse to recycle.” This argument has received a lot of scorn from philosophers over the years, but has actually been defended in some recent articles. A more systematic treatment of a central set of related issues (moral mathematics, collective action, side effects, green virtues) shows how maneuvering around these issues is no easy philosophical task. In the end, it appears, the argument from inconsequentialism indeed is correct in typical cases, but there are also important qualificatory considerations.