Some Remarks on the Individual Contribution to Climate Change


Climate change is one of the most important challenges of the 21st Century. As greenhouse gas concentration of the atmosphere has reached the 400ppm threshold of a 2°C global warming on 9 May 2013 and irreversible tipping points of the climatic system at some point of time have got even more likely, the question of the individual contribution to climate change becomes more and more virulent. For a long time, the absorption capacity of the environment has been regarded as limitless, and based on this perception, the economic entities used the environment for hundreds of years without constraints. Today, with progress of scientific knowledge, we are now aware of the possible negative impacts of climate change to environmental, economic and social systems on Earth. This awareness, however, did not lead to a significant change of individual behavior, because the perceived individual contribution to both the anthropogenic cause of climate change and its mitigation is still regarded as marginal. To encounter this misperception or diffusion of environmental responsibility, this article presents an alternative calculation of the individual contribution to climate change taking the incremental approach to a tipping point or a 2°C global warming threshold into account.

Share and Cite:

A. Oberheitmann, "Some Remarks on the Individual Contribution to Climate Change," American Journal of Climate Change, Vol. 2 No. 3, 2013, pp. 198-202. doi: 10.4236/ajcc.2013.23020.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] T. R. Malthus, “An Essay on the Principle of Population as It Affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers,” J. Johnson, London, 1798
[2] D. H. Meadows, D. L. Meadows, J. Randers and W. W. Behrens III, “The Limits to Growth,” New York, 1972.
[3] G. Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science, Vol. 162, No. 3859, 1968, pp. 1243-1248. doi:10.1126/science.162.3859.1243
[4] J. M. Darley and B. Latané, “Bystander Intervention in Emergencies: Diffusion of Responsibility,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 8, No. 4, 1968, pp. 377-383. doi:10.1037/h0025589
[5] A. Oberheitmann, “Economic Growth and a Low Carbon Economy―Does the Earth Suffer from an Easter Island Syndrome?” Low Carbon Economy, Vol. 2, No. 4, 2011, pp. 200-204. doi:10.4236/lce.2011.24024
[6] NOAA, “Carbon Dioxide at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400ppm,” 2013.
[7] R. K. Pachauri and A. Reisinger, “Climate Change 2007. Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the 4th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” IPCC, Geneva, 2007.
[8] T. M. Lenton, H. Held, E. Kriegler, J. W. Hall, W. Lucht, S. Rahmstorf and H. J. Schellnhuber, “Tipping Elements in the Earth’s Climate System,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 105, No. 6, 2008, pp. 1786-1793. doi:10.1073/pnas.0705414105
[9] M. Lenzen, “Individual Responsibility and Climate Change, Environmental Justice Conference,” The University of Melbourne, Mimeo, 1997.
[10] N. Hohne and K. Blok, “Calculating Historical Contributions to Climate Change—Discussing the ‘Brazilian Proposal’,” Climatic Change, Vol. 71, No. 1-2, 2005, pp 141-173. doi:10.1007/s10584-005-5929-9
[11] Z. W. Yang, “The Right to Carbon Emission: A New Right to Development—A Chinese Perspective,” American Journal of Climate Change, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2012, pp. 108-116. doi:10.4236/ajcc.2012.12009
[12] A. Oberheitmann, “A New Post-Kyoto Climate Regime Based on Per-Capita Cumulative Emissions Rights—Rationale, Architecture and Quantitative Assessment of the Implication for the CO2-Emissions from China, India and the Annex-I Countries by 2050,” Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2010, pp. 137-168. doi:10.1007/s11027-009-9207-4
[13] European Commission, “Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 Degrees Celsius—The Way Ahead for 2020 and Beyond,” Communication of the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committees of the Regions, COM(2007) 2 final, Brussels, 10.1.2007.
[14] M. Meinshausen, N. Meinshausen, W. Hare, S. Raper, K. Frieler, R. Knutti, D. Frame and M. Allen, “Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets for Limiting Global Warming to 2°C,” Nature, Vol. 458, 2009, pp. 1158-1163. doi:10.1038/nature08017
[15] Climate Change Expert Group EG Science, “The 2°C target—Background on Impacts, Emission Pathways, Mitigation Options and Costs: Information Reference Document,” Brussels, 2008.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.