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A popular argument against direct duties for individuals to address climate change holds that only states and other powerful collective agents must act. It excuses individual actions as harmless since they (1) are neither necessary nor sufficient to cause harm, (2) arise through normal activity, and (3) have no clear victims. Philosophers have challenged one or more of these assumptions; however, I show that this definition of harm also excuses states and other collective agents. I cite two examples of this in public discourse and suggest we reconsider the notion of harmful action in our discussions about climate change.


This article was originally published in Ethics, Policy & Environment 20, no. 1 (2017): 103-117.

Available for download on Monday, September 03, 2018