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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

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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