Environmental Ethics

Volume 43, Issue 1, Spring 2021

Benjamin HoweOrcid-ID
Pages 43-60

The Personal Responsibility to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Many theorists who argue that individuals have a personal responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) tie the amount of GHGs that an individual is obligated to reduce to the amount that an individual releases, or what is often called a carbon footprint. The first section of this article argues that this approach produces standards that are too burdensome in some contexts. Section two argues that this approach produces standards of responsibility that are too lenient in other contexts and sketches an alternative account of personal responsibility that treats it as an obligation to take certain kinds of opportunities to reduce GHGs, regardless of how little or much gas an individual releases through her own actions. Section three argues that this alternative conception of personal responsibility is well positioned to rebut the Argument from Inconsequentialism, widely considered the most significant challenge to the assumption that individuals are capable of bearing a responsibility to reduce GHGs.