The geography of emissions and forward-looking responsibility

Grantham Scholar Anton Eriksson researches the ethics of consumption and climate ethics with a focus on greenhouse gas emissions and international trade relationships.


There is broad consensus about the causes of climate change. However, it’s difficult to work out what individuals can do to fight it. In this blog, Anton Eriksson unpicks some climate change calculations. Read: Calculating individual contributions to climate change.

In 2016 Anton helped organise a panel debate about clean energy: Acting Together Against Climate Change. You can can watch this on our YouTube channel.

The project

When you burn fossil fuels by driving your car, standard emissions accounting attributes those emissions to you (and more generally, to your city, or country). But this ignores the history of the fuels e.g. where they were drilled and the steps in the supply chain between the source and your burning them. As such, the question of this project is whether the current ‘statist’ model of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions can be justified given extensive international trade relationships.

This project covers two broad topics: the ethics of consumption, and climate ethics. More generally, can an end-consumer inherit responsibility for the harms involved in a product’s history? How should responsibility for these harms be shared between those involved with a product at various stages? And does our current method of accounting for GHGs distribute responsibilities in a way that would be unjustified if we had a more accurate picture of the geography of emissions across national borders?

Stay up to date with Anton Eriksson and the other Grantham Scholars: join our newsletter.



Dr Chasca Twyman

Department of Geography