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About usWho are we?Green Office GroningenCourse: Sustainability Myth Busters 2015

November 9

Everyone is responsible for climate change

By: Suryapratim Roy (is replacing Dr. E. (Edwin) Woerdman due to illness)

climate change
  1. The UN has been asking individuals to ‘Kick the Habit’ or change our daily habits to deal with climate change: "Kick the Habit: A UN Guide to Climate Neutrality".
  2. The EU has issued a report stating that end-users such as households are responsible for more than half of the EU’s emissions.

In both the above, as well as from the moral opinions of documentary filmmakers such as ‘No Impact Man’ individuals are responsible for climate change. But are they?

Myth 1: Individuals are responsible for climate change, and therefore people are individually obliged to be climate-friendly This myth-busting is done with the help of:

  1. Wondering what individual moral obligations are. See the article by Walter Sinnott- Armstrong.
  2. Wondering whether individual action is a cover-up for political action. See the article by Michael Maniates. There is a deeper ‘individualist’ bias that lies in the above myth, and for which Elizabeth Shove is helpful.

In all the articles above, a call has been made for political action. One such political action is the International Law Associations Responsibility of States for climate change. But it could be said that if individuals are not responsible, then collective entities such as countries should not be responsible. An innovative argument is made by Alexander Zahar who argues that countries are not responsible under international law for ‘cumulative emissions’.

Myth 2: Just because individuals may not be responsible, countries and other entities are also not responsible for climate change. This myth-busting is done with the help of Benoit Mayer’s response to Zahar. And more generally based on the nature of ‘legal responsibility’ versus ‘real responsibility’. For an appraisal of this, see for instance Ronald Dworkin on ‘legal objectivity’.

Finally: is there a place for individuals at all in climate action? That is a more nuanced question!

Reading material:

- see above

Optional reading material:

- see above

Class evaluation
Laatst gewijzigd:08 juli 2019 16:02