According to the news, Russia is burning off, or "flaring," about 4.34 million cubic meters of gas a day because it does not sell it to Europe. That's apparently an equivalent of 9,000 tonnes of CO2. Is not any CO2 I could ever emit by driving a car, eating meat or heating with gas marginalized by a behavior like this to the extent that I can never be made responsible for any global warming damage? Thanks for some insights from the philosophical side.
It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Suppose it is immoral to steal a wallet. Now, suppose that you learn that someone else has robbed a bank of a lot of money. Does it now become moral for you to steal the wallet?
In moral matters, you consider only your own options and which options are more or less moral than others. To be moral is to choose the option available to you that is more moral, relative to the other options available to you.
It makes no difference if that option is more or less moral relative to some other action of some other person. That doesn't change the options available to you or the morality of those options relative to each other.
If Russia is burning huge amounts of oil, this does not make it less moral for you to do your own small part to avoid pollution. However, it does change your available options in the following way: it makes it more beneficial to take action to limit Russia from burning that oil. By yourself, you can't do much, but if many others think like you, together you can make a political impact that could influence Russia's behavior.
The idea of you personally being acountable for your personal CO2 footprint (and that reducing it is relevant and important to combatting climate change) is not a natural idea as such, and a quite new one at that.
The individual carbon footprint as a concept was pioneered by BP to shift the focus (and blame) from systemic perpetrators like oil giants and nation states to the (almost powerless) individual.
Sadly, this mentality, of going after the individual instead of demanding/acting for larger and systemic change has permeated public politics and debate incredibly thoroughly, reducing conversation around actual change on any relevant levels.
So not from a really philosophical side, but from a historical/societal one: Yes, you can't really do that much, and you'd know that if the organizations who could do much hadnt spent millions to get us to think otherwise.
You're comparing the CO2 emissions of you as an individual to those of an aggregate of people (Russia) without accounting for the size of the aggregate. If you spread the responsibility for Russia's additional 9000 tons of CO2 per day across all the 140 mio. Russians (or e.g. across the 440 mio. EU citizens for whom that gas was supposedly for) then the increase in CO2 emissions per individual of this particular incident is much lower than your own personal CO2 emissions.
The amount of gas Russia burns is the amount it usually sells. If you previously bought gas from Russia, you are contributing to the burning now. Stopping the purchase of gas now won't change the amount Russia burns. But where is your gas coming from now - some other equally bad dictatorship like Saudi Arabia? Should Saudi Arabia get similarly sanctioned for its war in Yemen, it will burn the amount of gas it usually sells, and you'll be glad if you didn't contribute to that.
9,000 tonnes of CO2 per day is not a lot.
Take into consideration that EU member countries have a total emission of 2,393 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year (2019). The 9,000 metric tonnes per day from Russia (3.3 million tonnes per year) is only 1.4% of that. And much less if you look at in on a worldwide per capita increase. It doesn't put you in a situation in which your actions won't have an impact. It doesn't completely invalidate your efforts if you manage to reduce your emissions by even 2%.
Normally Russia would (probably) be selling that gas, for whatever CO2 intensive purposes. Now (you say/suggest/whatever) they have to waste it because they are at war. Obviously the problem of fossil fuels is not changed. The personal question concerns magnitude. Why should one try if a hundred oppose? Overall the world statistics are not encouraging. It really is about magnitude, and whether governance can get a grip.
You may find of interest this review (for all its faults) of Prof. Yehezkel Dror's For Rulers: Priming Political Leaders for Saving Humanity From Itself (2017).
Even before his 2001 book The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome Dror has advocated a more aligned world strategy.
Can the world get a grip?
While Russia is burning is a huge amount, yet your personal contribution will of course add up to that. Look at it differently though. It's always good to save some energy, if only for financial reason, or for the reason that you're less dependent on energy if you are able to live with not so giant amount of that. Especially with such big shortages it helps.
Additionally, I feel like Russia is trying to pressurize us into giving them money by saying "we burn this gas, because you don't like us". That is not acceptable behaviour on their part. We are at war, Russia vs Civilization. We will not give in and buy their gas ever. And we should vote for political parties, that don't subsidize fossil fuels.
Is your goal to be personally morally pure, or to cause the most reduction in CO2 emissions across society?
You have correctly identified that stopping the big polluters is going to be more effective than reducing your already tiny personal CO2 output. Therefore, it is not going to be an effective use of your time to reduce your personal CO2 output. Instead, you will be more effective if you focus on stopping other people from polluting.
The important thing is to not let the above argument become an excuse to do nothing. You have to actually try to stop the big CO2 producers from producing CO2.
If the question is how to evaluate your contribution to global warming (something I struggle with myself):
The accounting would need to consider whether your lifestyle up to now has been such that the Russian gas or any harmful substance/practice was demanded in the first place to keep you in your lifestyle - no matter how indirectly.
Eg if you buy a new car because you want a brand new car, you're part of the demand for new cars and are complicit. That goes to all the energy and resources used to make the car - everything, down to the last gloop of eyeliner used by the marketing team.
Another situation: my local village is resisting drilling for onshore oil. An argument for it is that the UK needs oil and it's better than transporting it via tanker from Saudi Arabia, thus wasting hideous amounts of oil (fuel) just getting the oil here. Actually: that's irrelevant because the Saudis (or whoever) will still extract and sell all oil they can. The (relatively tiny) UK extraction just adds to the total amount on the world's surface. So the notion is .. leave it in the ground. The less we extract, the less we burn.
So back to gas: If you consider the world's liveable surface to be one big bag of air and water, it really doesn't matter where or how any fossil fuels are being burned. It all hurts the ecology.
The question then becomes whether your lifestyle thus far holds an equal demand, through all channels no matter how indirectly, to the global average demand for gas or petrol, etc. per person.
Russia burning gas is clearly a waste in that no-one gets any benefit from it, but it would have been burned anyway if it was used for heating homes. The fact that it (and any fossil fuel/ harming chemical) been extracted at all is the root problem, and for that we're all responsible.
This is your mind trying to work around the fact that everything needs to change in order to combat climate change.
So no more flying, no meat, no car -not even a Tesla- and definitely do not get more than two kids.
(Putler is actually speeding up the transition to green energy with these gas prices.)
I'd say it's a question of whether or not you think the earth is doomed already (because of Russia, among other things).
If so then there's no ethical dilemma I can see. The ship has struck an iceberg, broken in half, and is on the way to the bottom in the frozen seas with no life boats and no help anywhere. We are definitely doomed. Is it unethical for you to drill a hole in the boat? Eh. It's probably fine. You can't possibly make things worse.
If we're not doomed then yes there's an ethical problem. Russia has fired a cannon and put a hole in the side of the ship. But the pumps are going and the ship might well still be saved. Is it ethical for you to drill more holes in the ship? Your holes are smaller, after all. But you'll be adding to the problem and while your lone drill hole probably won't spell the difference between doom and not-doom, every passenger on the ship making their own hole would be a bigger problem than Russia's cannonball, so now the sinking ship is your fault, too.
(Probably a good lesson here on the messaging of climate change. We should worry, but if we are convinced we're doomed beyond hope then eh, "do what you want, won't be any humans left to care in 100 years no matter what you do".)