ZOOM SEMINAR: The Ethics of Individuals' Greenhouse Gas Emission

  • Date: –16:00
  • Location: Online via Zoom
  • Lecturer: H. Orri Stefánsson, Pro Futura Scientia Fellow, SCAS. Associate Professor of Practical Philosophy, Stockholm University. Research Fellow, Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm
  • Website
  • Organiser: Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
  • Contact person: Klas Holm
  • Seminarium

H. Orri Stefánsson, SCAS and Stockholm University, gives a seminar on "The Ethics of Individuals' Greenhouse Gas Emission". The talk will be followed by a Q&A session.

Abstract: Within climate ethics, there is a debate about what moral duties and responsibilities we as private individuals have when it comes to the climate crisis. All parties to this debate agree that states—in particular, large and powerful states—are morally responsible for climate change and have a duty to reduce the harm of climate change. But some nevertheless argue that private actions that cause greenhouse gas emission—e.g., our consumption and modes of transportation—have no chance of affecting the severity of climate change. Therefore, they think, individuals are not, through their private actions, morally responsible for climate change, nor does the harm of climate change impose a duty on them to change their consumption and modes of transportation. Others argue that while individuals’ private decisions have no chance of preventing the climate crisis, such decisions do have some—perhaps small—chance of affecting the harm of climate change; which can translate into a large expected harm or benefit. Moreover, the people on whom we impose an expected harm when go for a Sunday ride in a gas guzzling SUV, say, have a right not to be harmed, and, in addition, we could avoid imposing the harm at little cost to ourselves. Hence, some argue, the expected harm in question is unjust. In this talk I shall briefly review this debate, and add some further arguments for the view that even seemingly insignificant acts such as going for a Sunday ride on a gas guzzling SUV imposes unjust expected climate harm. This view seems to put most of us in an uncomfortable position. However, some have argued that, even if this view is true, we can continue our greenhouse gas emitting lifestyles, without doing any injustice, as long as we offset all greenhouse gas emission that we cause. I conclude my talk by arguing that, unfortunately, that is not true. When we cause emission that we offset, the emission will almost certainly impose expected harm on some people while reducing the expected harm on other people. Therefore, just as we typically cannot justify harming one person by preventing another person from being harm, we cannot fully justify our greenhouse gas emission by offsetting it. So, although you should offset all your emissions, that does not fully get you off the moral hook.

For more information and the Zoom link, please see the enclosed PDF file or http://www.swedishcollegium.se/subfolders/Events.html.

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