In this dissertation, I investigate the implications of libertarian morality in relation to the problem of climate change. This problem is explicated in the first chapter, where preliminary clarifications are also made. In the second chapter, I briefly explain the characteristics of libertarianism relevant to the subsequent study, including the central non-aggression principle. In chapter three, I examine whether our individual emissions of greenhouse gases, which together give rise to climate change, meet this principle. I do this based on the assumption that we are the legitimate owners of the resources we use in those activities. In the fourth chapter, I question this assumption and scrutinize libertarianism’s restrictions on appropriations of climate-relevant resources, which leads me to distinguish between some different versions of the libertarian view. Toward the end of the chapter, I also examine libertarianism’s answer to the political question regarding how emission rights should be distributed. The fifth chapter investigates libertarianism’s verdicts for mere risks of infringement, as stemming from people’s emissions and acts of appropriations. In chapter six, I investigate the libertarian right to self-defense against both the effects of climate change and other people’s climate-relevant activities. In chapter seven, I discuss two intergenerational issues related to climate change: what libertarianism says concerning future generations and how libertarianism might deal with the problem of historical emissions. The eighth chapter explores the implications of libertarianism regarding collective moral wrongdoing in connection to climate change. In chapter nine, I take a look at the libertarian room for governmental responses for tackling climate change. The tenth and final chapter is a summary. The overall conclusion of the dissertation is that libertarianism recommends that we reduce our emissions and decrease our extraction of natural resources such as forests and fossil fuels. Furthermore, governments are permitted to undertake some quite substantial actions in order to fight the causes of climate change. I end with some bottom-up reflections on what these conclusions might say about the plausibility of libertarianism. I claim that although libertarianism after all manages to explain some of our moral intuitions regarding climate change, it is questionable whether libertarianism’s explanation is better than those offered by alternative moral theories. 

Full text

Torpman (2016) Libertarianism and Climate Change (2269 Kb)