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date: 18 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

Many environmental problems are the result of the aggregation of seemingly innocuous individual actions. As a result, recognizing the moral significance of our contributory, indirect role in the generation of collective harms is crucial in environmental contexts. This chapter argues that taking our contributory role seriously provides a means of accepting a robust form of responsibility for collective harms. Our responsibilities include not only our individual actions, what we have done directly as individuals, but also the influence we might have on the wide range of institutions and practices that can generate harm and benefit. Taking seriously our contributory responsibility for collective harms not only provides an appropriate way of thinking about moral responsibility in environmental contexts but also provides a helpful response to those who reject the possibility of an individual moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Keywords: responsibility, indirect responsibility, contributory responsibility, climate change, environmental harm, tragedy of the commons, collective action

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