The Construction of a Sustainable Development in Times of Climate Change

Dissertation, Lund University (2013)
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This dissertation is a contribution to the debate about ‘climate justice’, i.e. a call for a just and feasible distribution of responsibility for addressing climate change. The main argument is a proposal for a cautious, practicable, and necessary step in the right direction: given the set of theoretical and practical obstacles to climate justice, we must begin by making contemporary development practices sustainable. In times of climate change, this is done by recognising and responding to the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases, with climate change as their result, are an immanent threat to any reflectively embraced development project. In the universal pursuit of progress, basic needs of both present and future people are put at risk. Even so, a political stalemate and business-as-usual prevail. The situation is locked up by an uncertainty about the exact impacts of choices made and by the reasonable disagreement of modern societies. The result is passiveness, and the passing on of a slowly and indiscernibly growing problem to future generations. This dissertation brings out a crucial message about the need to make our development sustainable. Instead of delaying action through trying to resolve the intractable epistemic and normative uncertainty fully, the focus should be on vindicating already shared points of practical convergence. On the constructivist method here adopted, the task is to characterise the agent and the situation faced from a practical and first-person point of view. More specifically, to specify the practical problem climate change gives rise to; the moral importance of needs (chapter three); how a principled priority of basic needs can be defended (chapter four), intergenerationally (chapter five) and internationally (chapter six); and what natural and social limits there are to development (chapter seven). These conceptions narrows the practice of development in the present context: it can be concluded that development must not risk the basic needs of anyone implicated. This common ground brackets off disagreement irrelevant to the urgent need to act, and so brings together otherwise deeply divided agents. A sufficientarian basic needs-principle, as the focus of an overlapping consensus, is practicable and anticipatory in the disuniting moral conundrum of climate change.
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