If an environmentalist proposes a measure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, soon enough someone will say, “But, you hypocrite, you still fly in jet planes and commute to work with an automobile!”
But a proper role of a just government is exactly to stop the free riders and profiteers, to force people to do the right thing, to force everybody to “do their bit”. I’m happy to do my share, but a sap to do more than that. For example, for most people, the largest portion of their carbon footprint is the children they chose to create. I, on the other hand, won’t have any descendants, which is good for the environment, but not so good for my selfish genes.
The exploiters in power love it when they get us thinking about what little volunteer nibbling around the edges we can do, such as recycle a scrap of paper. I recycle scrupulously, walk around the building at the end of the day turning off banks of fluorescent lights, curse the depraved indifference of those who leave faucets running, and so on. But in the big picture, none of it matters, and it just gives a sense of false agency. Only changing the rules matters. “At least I’m doing something.” is self-serving delusion if you’re not doing something that matters.
It’s crazy to unilaterally disarm, to wear a hairshirt just to avoid being called a hypocrite when you say what the rules should rationally be. If we don’t force everybody to do their share, it’s unjust, and most people won’t voluntarily be saps for long, no matter how many public service announcements are sandwiched in amidst the bill-paying flashy advertisements for more and more cool stuff.
If the society imposes a carbon tax on everybody that releases it into the atmosphere, prohibits the sale of cars that won’t get at least 50mpg, and so on, then people will go along, just as they did with the bans on second-hand tobacco smoke.
If the society is not willing to change its rules, then its alleged concerns about the environment are just sham poses for the camera, pious hopes and empty promises, irrelevant.
Aside: Changing yourself means changing your rules.