The geography of emissions and forward-looking responsibility

Anton Eriksson

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: where they were drilled for, and the potentially many steps in the supply chain between the source and your eventual act of burning them. 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, it asks, 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?


While there is broad consensus about the causes of climate change, it’s more difficult to work out what measures individuals can take to fight it. In this blog post, Anton Eriksson unpicks the climate change calculations that he discussed with his fellow students during one of their regular Journal Club sessions. Read: Calculating individual contributions to climate change.



Dr Chasca Twyman

Department of Geography