Climate Change and Individual Obligations: A Dilemma for the Expected Utility Approach, and the Need for an Imperfect View

In Philosophy and Climate Change. Oxford, UK: pp. 201-221 (2021)
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This chapter concerns the nature of our obligations as individuals when it comes to our emissions-producing activities and climate change. The first half of the chapter argues that the popular ‘expected utility’ approach to this question faces a problematic dilemma: either it gives skeptical verdicts, saying that there are no such obligations, or it yields implausibly strong verdicts. The second half of the chapter diagnoses the problem. It is argued that the dilemma arises from a very general feature of the view, and thus is shared by other views as well. The chapter then discusses what an account of our individual obligations needs to look like if it is to avoid the dilemma. Finally, the discussion is extended beyond climate change to other collective impact contexts.

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Julia Nefsky
University of Toronto at Scarborough


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