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Cautiously utopian goals: Philosophical analyses of climate change objectives and sustainability targets
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2835-919X
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this thesis, the framework within which long-term goals are set and subsequently achieved or approached is analyzed. Sustainable development and climate change are areas in which goals have tobe set despite uncertainties. The analysis is divided into the normative motivations for setting such goals, what forms of goals could be set given the empirical and normative uncertainties, and how tomanage doubts regarding achievability or values after a goal has been set.

Paper I discusses a set of questions that moral theories intended to guide goal-setting should respond to. It is often claimed that existent normative theories provide only modest guidance regarding climate change, and consequently have to be revised or supplemented. Two such suggested revisions or supplements are analyzed in order to determine whether they provide such guidance.

Paper II applies the deep ecological framework to survey the extent to which it can be utilized to discuss issues concerning the management of climate change. It is suggested that the deep ecological framework can provide guidance by establishing a normative framework and an analysis of how the overarching values and principles can be specified to be relevant for actions.

Paper III is focused on normative political theory, and explicates the two dimensions of empirical and normative uncertainty. By applying recent discussions in normative political theory on ideal/non-ideal theory, political realism, and the relation between normative demands and empirical constraints,strategies for managing the proposed goals are suggested.

Paper IV suggests a form of goal that incorporates uncertainties. Cautious utopias allow greater uncertainty than realistic goals (goals that are known to be achievable or approachable, and desirable),but not to the same extent as utopian goals (goals wherein it is highly uncertain whether the goal can actually be achieved). Such goals have a performance-enhancing function. A definition and quality criteria for such goals are proposed.

Paper V considers whether a goal that is becoming all the more unlikely to be achievable should be reconsidered. The paper focuses on the two degrees Celsius target, and asks whether it could still be a sensible goal to aspire to. By applying the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, the role of such obligations is investigated.

Paper VI surveys how to treat circumstances in which an already set goal should be reconsidered and possibly revised, and what would evoke doubt in the belief upon which those goals have been set.Two situations are analyzed: (i) a problematic or surprising event occurs, upsetting confidence in one’s relevant beliefs, or (ii) respectable but dissenting views are voiced concerning one’s means and/or values. It is suggested that the validity of doubt has to be considered, in addition to the level in a goal-means hierarchy towards which doubt is raised.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2016. , 41 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
Keyword [en]
Sustainability; climate change; environmental philosophy; climate ethics; goals
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176856ISBN: 978-91-7595-744-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-176856DiVA: diva2:868410
Public defence
2016-01-07, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20151204

Available from: 2015-12-04 Created: 2015-11-10 Last updated: 2016-04-20Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. New Beginnings?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>New Beginnings?
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-178058 (URN)
Note

QS 2015

Available from: 2015-12-04 Created: 2015-12-04 Last updated: 2015-12-04Bibliographically approved
2. Managing climate change: A view from deep ecology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managing climate change: A view from deep ecology
2015 (English)In: Ethics and the Environment, ISSN 1085-6633, E-ISSN 1535-5306, Vol. 20, no 1, 23-44 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Despite the awareness that climate change is an increasingly urgent issue to manage, little is being done to adequately achieve mitigation targets and ambitions. It has been suggested that this is due to ill-equipped normative frameworks and that common concepts, such as responsibility, harm, and justice, collapse when applied to climate change. One perspective has however been missing from this debate – the deep ecological perspective. The paper will investigate the deep ecological view and will argue that it can provide a valuable contribution to normative issues pertaining to climate change.

National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-157833 (URN)10.2979/ethicsenviro.20.1.23 (DOI)
Note

QC 20150618

Available from: 2014-12-16 Created: 2014-12-16 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
3. Adaptive Ideals and Aspirational Goals: The Utopian Ideals and Realist Constraints of Climate Change Adaptation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Adaptive Ideals and Aspirational Goals: The Utopian Ideals and Realist Constraints of Climate Change Adaptation
2015 (English)In: Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, ISSN 1187-7863, E-ISSN 1573-322X, Vol. 28, no 4, 739-757 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There is a growing need to implement anticipatory climate change adaptation measures, particularly in vulnerable sectors, such as in agriculture. However, setting goals to adapt is wrought with several challenges. This paper discusses two sets of challenges to goals of anticipatory adaptation, of (1) empirical and (2) normative character. The first set of challenges concern issues such as the extent to which the climate will change, the local impacts of such changes, and available adaptive responses. In the second set of uncertainties are issues such as the distribution of burdens to enhance adaptive capacities in vulnerable agents with a legitimate claim to such resources, and what anticipatory adaptation ideally should result in. While previous discussions have been limited to either discuss the first or second set of uncertainties, this paper suggests that both dimensions should be considered when setting goals in social planning with long time frames. A taxonomy will be suggested that combines both dimensions. Furthermore, strategies for managing situations in which there are either empirical, or normative, uncertainties will be proposed which could be used in social decision-making with long planning time-frames in which goals must be set.

Keyword
Agriculture, Climate change adaptation, Goals, Realism, Utopia
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-170180 (URN)10.1007/s10806-015-9557-8 (DOI)000358601500010 ()2-s2.0-84938420833 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150827

Available from: 2015-06-28 Created: 2015-06-28 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
4. Cautious Utopias: Environmental goal-setting with long time frames
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cautious Utopias: Environmental goal-setting with long time frames
2015 (English)In: Ethics, Policy & Environment, ISSN 2155-0085, E-ISSN 2155-0093, Vol. 18, no 2, 187-201 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sustainable development is a common goal in the public sector but may be difficult to implement due to epistemic uncertainties and required long time frames. This paper proposes that some of these problems can be solved by formulating cautious utopias, entailing a relationship between means and goals differing from both utopian and realistic goal-setting. Cautiously utopian goals are believed, but not certain, to be achievable and to remain desirable, but are open to future adjustments due to changing desires and/or factual circumstances. Quality criteria for such goals are suggested.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2015
Keyword
means-end relationship; planning; goal-setting; utopian goals; climate change; sustainable development
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-144914 (URN)10.1080/21550085.2015.1070487 (DOI)2-s2.0-84938427229 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150629. QC 20160212

Available from: 2014-05-05 Created: 2014-05-05 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
5. Risk-Reducing Goals: Ideals and Abilities when Managing Complex Environmental Risks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Risk-Reducing Goals: Ideals and Abilities when Managing Complex Environmental Risks
2016 (English)In: Journal of Risk Research, ISSN 1366-9877, E-ISSN 1466-4461, Vol. 19, no 2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Social decision-making involving risks ideally results in obligations to avoid expected harms or keep them within acceptable limits. Ambitious goals aimed at avoiding or greatly reducing risks might not to be feasible, forcing the acceptance of higher degrees of risk (i.e., unrealistic levels of risk reduction are revised to comport with beliefs regarding abilities). In this paper, the philosophical principle ‘ought implies can’ is applied to the management of complex risks, exemplified by the risks associated with climate change. In its common interpretation, the principle states that we cannot expect an agent to perform something that lies beyond his or her abilities. However, it is here argued that this principle requires setting thresholds for legitimate claims of inabilities that justify the waiving of normative demands. This paper discuss three claims: (1) that caution is required before revising a risk-reducing goal that is perhaps exceedingly ambitious; (2) that claims on abilities are not only descriptive, but also value-laden; and (3) that the function of a goal has to be clarified before risk-reducing goals are revised. Risk-reducing goals that initially seem unrealistic arguably serve performance-enhancing purposes in risk management. Neglecting such goals could lead to choosing less desirable, but certainly feasible, risk-reducing goals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2016
Keyword
risk, goal-setting, reconsidering goals, ‘ought implies can’, feasibility, environmental risk
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-144915 (URN)10.1080/13669877.2014.961513 (DOI)000366684500003 ()2-s2.0-84907764446 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20160115

Available from: 2014-05-05 Created: 2014-05-05 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
6. Change of plans?: An environmental pragmatist view on reconsidering long-term goals
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Change of plans?: An environmental pragmatist view on reconsidering long-term goals
2015 (English)In: Environmental Philosophy, ISSN 1718-0918, Vol. 12, no 2, 185-204 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sustainable ecosystem management often requires setting goals despite uncertainty regarding the achievability and desirability of the intended state of affairs. Coming to doubt the achievability or desirability of a previously set goal might sometimes, but not always, require reconsidering that goal. There is, however, a need to strike a balance between responsiveness to new information and knowing when to retain goals despite doubts. By critically engaging with adaptive ecosystem management (AEM), as advocated by environmental pragmatist Bryan G. Norton, criteria for warranted reconsideration of long-term goals are investigated. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Philosophy Documentation Center, 2015
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-175993 (URN)10.5840/envirophil2015102624 (DOI)
Note

QC 20151029. QC 20160212

Available from: 2015-10-26 Created: 2015-10-26 Last updated: 2016-02-12Bibliographically approved

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