Premise 1: It appears on the face of it, to everyday thinking, that the right thing to do concerning climate change is to reduce one’s own emissions as much as possible, or at least as much as is convenient, and to lobby the state to change laws concerning carbon and energy, and to encourage friends and the public both to make personal sacrifice and to lobby the state and others to act similarly. The general goal in mind in all these actions is to enable and facilitate a transition to a carbon neutral economy.
Premise 2: For a principle to be a moral ground of an action, it must be universalizable. This means that if everyone to whom it applies were to follow it strictly, this would not make it impossible to follow.
Note 1: I’m taking for granted that there might be lots of different principles that are grounds for different moral actions which come out of premise 1. I cannot deal with all of them.
Attempt 1: “One ought reduce one’s own emissions as much as can be done without significant sacrifice considering one’s means, needs, and position in society.”
Problem 1: If everyone were to act as “one” ought act in attempt 1, the economy would fall into depression. This contradicts the goal of enabling a transition to a carbon neutral economy inasmuch as transition to that economy cannot happen without any money.
Attempt 2: “One ought act in such a way that promotes the transition to a carbon neutral economy”.
Attempt 2 looks better, because it doesn’t specify any concrete action that if everyone followed would contradict the goal of the principle.
However, there is still a problem. First, one can’t call others unethical for not reducing their own emissions – only for not acting in such a way that enables the transition to a carbon neutral economy. Thus, we can’t make a moral law out of how much carbon you can emit – at least not yet. It’s perfectly possible that in a carbon neutral economy, it could be a moral law to emit only 750kg of carbon.
What do people think?