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Ecology Law Quarterly

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private governance, climate change, legacy-driven behavior


Environmental Law | Law


This Article explores whether a private governance initiative can harness
legacy concerns to address climate change. The socio-temporal trap is an
important barrier to climate change mitigation: The costs of reducing carbon
emissions will be incurred by this generation, but most of the benefits will
accrue to future generations. Research suggests that social influences—
including concerns about legacy—can induce individuals to overcome
collective action problems, but individuals know that future generations will
not have information about who acted today in ways meriting social sanctions
or rewards. Insufficient information may undermine three aspects of legacy-
driven behavior: the concern about how one’s actions today will be viewed by
future generations, the concern about how these actions will affect the social
status of progeny, and the alignment of these actions with moral beliefs
regarding the treatment of future generations. Making legacy-related
information public today may also influence social sanctions and rewards from
contemporaries. The Article examines the nature of legacy concerns, their
effects on behavior, and the feasibility of a private legacy registry designed to
record individuals’ responses to climate change in ways that will not only be
disclosed today, but will also be easily accessible for many generations.



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