Climate Change and Decision Theory

In Gianfranco Pellegrino & Marcello Di Paola (eds.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Climate Change. Springer (2023)
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Many people are worried about the harmful effects of climate change but nevertheless enjoy some activities that contribute to the emission of greenhouse gas (driving, flying, eating meat, etc.), the main cause of climate change. How should such people make choices between engaging in and refraining from enjoyable greenhouse-gas-emitting activities? In this chapter we look at the answer provided by decision theory. Some scholars think that the right answer is given by interactive decision theory, or game theory; and moreover think that since private climate decisions are instances of the prisoner’s dilemma, one rationally should engage in these activities provided that one enjoys them. Others think that the right answer is given by expected utility theory, the best-known version of individual decision theory under risk and uncertainty. In this chapter we review these different answers, with a special focus on the latter answer and the debate it has generated.



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Andrea S. Asker
Stockholm University

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