Individual responsibility and climate change


Many would accept that modern societies need to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to prevent the harms associated with climate change. This would place substantial burdens on some individuals, requiring them to significantly modify their living patterns and possibly reduce their consumption. This workshop will explore normative and methodological issues related to individual behavior and efforts to address climate change. We welcome papers on public policy, but the workshop aims to focus on individual GHG reduction, social norm change, and measuring individuals’ impact.

We are especially interested in papers on the following topics:

  • To what degree does addressing climate change require social norm change? Should individuals adopt social norms like veganism or a car-free lifestyle? To what extent is it permissible to informally sanction people who violate these norms?
  • How should an individual’s GHG impact be measured? Should the emissions of their offspring be counted toward their own? Should GHG accounting focus on the total share of emissions that can be attributed to particular individuals, or on the marginal difference their choices make to overall emissions?
  • Do individuals have claim-rights against others to reduce their GHG emissions? If so, are any specifiable individuals the holders of the corresponding obligation to reduce emissions?
  • Do individuals in the Global South have an obligation to reduce their emissions or the rate that their GHG emissions increase?
  • Do individuals have obligations to advocate for political change to address climate change even if they do not have obligations to reduce their individual emissions?
  • Many efforts to reduce individual emissions would be demanding. Does the demandingness of behavioral change to reduce GHG emissions make those changes non-obligatory or supererogatory?