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Climate Change and the Moral Agent: Individual Duties in an Interdependent World

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Mar 2013 | #200705 | ISBN-13: 9780199665655
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NHBS Price: £54.99 $72/€62 approx

About this book

Many of us take it for granted that we ought to cooperate to tackle climate change. But where does this requirement come from, and what does it mean for us as individuals trying to do the right thing? Climate change does very great harm, to our fellow humans and to the non-human world, but no one causes it on their own and it isn't the result of intentionally collective action. In the face of the current failure of institutions to face up to the problem, is there anything we can do as individuals that will leave us able to live with ourselves?

This book responds to these challenges. It makes a moral case for collective action on climate change by appealing to moralized collective self-interest, collective ability to aid, and an expanded understanding of collective responsibility for harm. On top of these, it argues that collective action is something we owe to ourselves, as moral agents, because without it we are left facing marring choices. In the absence of collective action, individuals should focus on trying to promote such action (whether through or by bypassing existing institutions), with a supplementary duty to aid victims directly. The argument is not that we should not be cutting our own emissions: this can be a necessary part of bringing about collective action or alleviating harm. However, such 'green' lifestyle choices cannot be straightforwardly defended as duties in their own right, and they should not take priority over trying to bring about collective change.


1: Introduction

Part I: Climate Change and Us: Collective Self-interest, Collective Inaction, and Collective Harm
2: In the Same Boat
3: Doing and Preventing Harm

Part II: Pushing the Boundaries: Duties to Whom?
4: Harming and Protecting Non-Humans

Part III: Climate Change and Me: What I Should Do When We Fail to act
5: Mimicking Duties
6: Promotional and Direct Duties

Part IV: Climate Change and Moral Baggage: Collective Failure, Individual Costs, and Marring Choices
7: Living with Ourselves


Key Claims and Definitions
Glossary of Philosophical Terms

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Elizabeth Cripps completed her MPhil and PhD in political philosophy at University College London in 2008, before which she worked for four years as a journalist, primarily for the Financial Times Group. Her first degree was in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St John's College, Oxford. She is a Lecturer in Political Theory and former British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Edinburgh.

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