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Individual (political) responsibility for climate change

Wednesday, November 23, 2022, 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm

Political Science Department and POLEMO Research Group invite you to the seminar: Individual (political) responsibility for climate change


For private individuals, I examine whether they are to be blamed for emissions that they cause in the pursuit of their leisure activities. For this to be the case, according to the first main thesis, several conditions must be met: emissions-generating activities by private individuals in pursuit of their leisure activities are at least morally questionable if these individuals cause more emissions than they are fairly entitled to, insofar as their excessive emissions harm other people and they are liable for knowing this, moreover, they can act differently and better with burdens that are reasonable for them. Reducing emissions in the private sector, however, can be politically significant, according to the second main thesis: Fulfilling obligations to reduce private emissions can not only serve as a role model but also, at least in Western democracies, reduce the political costs of enforcing government climate action, so taking private individual responsibility for climate change can also help fulfill civic duties to promote the transformation to climate neutrality.
Individuals’ climate change duties are mostly future-oriented. However, if they do not fulfill their future-oriented duties, they can be blamed for this. Then they are responsible for their own blameworthy (and most likely harmful) actions. The responsible person is under backward-looking duties, that is, duties based on his or her past acts or omissions. With regard to the avoidable, but not avoided, consequences of climate change, it is important to enabling those negatively affected by climate change to adapt to the changed living conditions to the extent possible, so that they do not suffer any harm. For the losses and damages, they suffer despite adaptation, restitution and compensation must be provided as far as possible.