10. “Free Markets, Property Rights and Climate Change: How to Privatize Climate Policy”


Abstract: The goal has been to devise a strategy that protects as much as possible the rights and liberties of all agents, both users of fossil fuels and people whose livelihoods and territories are at risk if the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis is true. To achieve this goal the standard climate policy instruments, taxes and emissions trading, should be discontinued. There are weaknesses in the theoretical perspectives used to justify these policy instruments and climate science cannot provide the knowledge that would be needed to justify their implementation. In their place I propose a privatised policy, based on Austrian and libertarian frameworks of thought, which share an interpretation of climate change as a putative interpersonal conflict rather than market failure. The use of fossil fuels, like any other economic activity, should be subject to side-constraints designed to avoid the infringement of other people’s property rights. Tort litigation on the basis of strict liability would protect these rights, insofar as they need protecting. By providing a public arena for the competitive testing of scientific hypotheses concerning climate change, such litigation would also promote the public understanding and even the advancement of climate science.