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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Libertarianism, Climate Change, and Individual Responsibility

Torpman, Olle


Much has been written about climate change from an ethical view in general, but less has been written about it from a libertarian point of view in particular. In this paper, I apply the libertarian moral theory to the problem of climate change. I focus on libertarianism's implications for our individual emissions. I argue that (i) even if our individual emissions cause no harm to others, these emissions cross other people's boundaries, (ii) although the boundary-crossings that are due to our 'subsistence emissions' are implicitly consented to by others, there is no such consent to our 'non-subsistence emissions', and (iii) there is no independent justification for these emissions. Although offsetting would provide such a justification, most emitters do not offset their non-subsistence emissions. Therefore, these emissions violate people's rights, which means that they are impermissible according to libertarianism's non-aggression principle.


Libertarianism; Non-aggression principle; Boundary-crossings; Individual emissions; Offsetting; Individual climate responsibility

Published in

Res Publica
2022, Volume: 28, number: 1, pages: 125-148
Publisher: SPRINGER

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