Climate Change, Moral Integrity, and Obligations to Reduce Individual Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ethics, Policy and Environment 21 (1):64-80 (2018)
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Environmental ethicists have not reached a consensus about whether or not individuals who contribute to climate change have a moral obligation to reduce their personal greenhouse gas emissions. In this paper, I side with those who think that such individuals do have such an obligation by appealing to the concept of integrity. I argue that adopting a political commitment to work toward a collective solution to climate change—a commitment we all ought to share—requires also adopting a personal commitment to reduce one’s emissions. On these grounds, individuals who contribute to climate change have a prima facie moral duty to lower their personal greenhouse gas emissions. After presenting this argument and supporting each of its premises, I defend it from two major lines of objection: skepticism about integrity’s status as a virtue and concerns that the resulting moral duty would be too demanding to be morally required. I then consider the role that an appeal to integrity could play in galvanizing the American public to take personal and political action regarding climate change.

Author's Profile

Trevor Hedberg
University of Arizona


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