sustainability-logo

Journal Browser

Journal Browser

Special Issue "Ethics of Climate Adaptation"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Air, Climate Change and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2021) | Viewed by 8345

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Neelke Doorn
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Values, Technology and Innovation, Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, PO Box 5015, 2600 GA Delft, Netherlands
Interests: water ethics; climate change; resilience; water governance; water engineering; philosophy of engineering; ethics of technology
Dr. Udo Pesch
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Values, Technology and Innovation, Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, PO Box 5015, 2600 GA Delft, Netherlands
Interests: responsible innovation; environmental politics; sustainable innovation; participatory politics; ethics of technology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It is now widely accepted by climate scientists that climate change requires both mitigation actions to reduce climate change and adaptation to cope with its effects, such as increased droughts, heat waves, and flooding. In recent years, resilience has emerged as one of the leading paradigms for adaptation policies. These policies prompt important ethical questions.

First, climate adaptation and resilience policies establish a role division in terms of who has to do what, with that settling questions about which parties are included and excluded, and which parties are beneficiaries, victimized, and forgotten. These policies confront us with strong queries about social justice and responsibility, necessitating critical reflection.

Second, addressing the different effects of climate change may require conflicting interventions. For example, strategies to prevent flooding may conflict with drought strategies or ecological objectives. This prompts questions about how to reconcile or prioritize these different interventions and about whose claims to acknowledge. Additionally, addressing issues of climate change involves a long-term planning orientation taking place at different territorial scales. This may shift the focus away from the everyday environmental justice struggles that local communities are currently struggling with.

Third, climate adaptation policies demand new kinds of solutions, which to a large extent are informed by scientific expertise. The way these science-based activities affect matters of social justice often seem to focus mainly on the effectiveness of policies instead of their legitimacy. This calls for critical analysis of the interwoven character of scientific knowledge development, policy-making, and societal impacts, and particularly the epistemic injustices that emerge when local knowledge is dismissed.

This Special Issue aims to address the different ethical questions raised by climate adaptation from a multidisciplinary angle. We especially welcome papers on the following topics:

  • The inclusion and exclusion of specific social groups in climate politics;
  • The designation of responsibilities to actors regarding climate adaptation and resilience policies;
  • Scalar politics in climate adaptation policy, as climate change issues transcend geographical, administrative, and temporal scales;
  • The conceptual and/or empirical influence of resilience studies on climate adaptation policies and the impact of social justice;
  • Questions of epistemic justice and the role of local knowledge in climate adaptation and resilience policies;
  • Quantitative approaches that allow for modelling ethical considerations in climate adaptation and resilience policies.

Prof. Dr. Neelke Doorn
Dr. Udo Pesch
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • climate adaptation
  • ethics
  • delta planning
  • distributive justice
  • drought
  • environmental justice
  • epistemic justice
  • flooding
  • resilience

Published Papers (10 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Article
Sharing the Burdens of Climate Mitigation and Adaptation: Incorporating Fairness Perspectives into Policy Optimization Models
Sustainability 2022, 14(7), 3737; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14073737 - 22 Mar 2022
Viewed by 361
Abstract
Mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change can be addressed only through the collective action of multiple agents. The engagement of involved agents critically depends on their perception that the burdens and benefits of collective action are distributed fairly. Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), [...] Read more.
Mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change can be addressed only through the collective action of multiple agents. The engagement of involved agents critically depends on their perception that the burdens and benefits of collective action are distributed fairly. Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), which inform climate policies, focus on the minimization of costs and the maximization of overall utility, but they rarely pay sufficient attention to how costs and benefits are distributed among agents. Consequently, some agents may perceive the resultant model-based policy recommendations as unfair. In this paper, we propose how to adjust the objectives optimized within IAMs so as to derive policy recommendations that can plausibly be presented to agents as fair. We review approaches to aggregating the utilities of multiple agents into fairness-relevant social rankings of outcomes, analyze features of these rankings, and associate with them collections of properties that a model’s objective function must have to operationalize each of these rankings within the model. Moreover, for each considered ranking, we propose a selection of specific objective functions that can conveniently be used for generating this ranking in a model. Maximizing these objective functions within existing IAMs allows exploring and identifying climate polices to which multiple agents may be willing to commit. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Good Life and Climate Adaptation
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 456; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010456 - 01 Jan 2022
Viewed by 328
Abstract
The need to adapt to climate change brings about moral concerns that according to ‘eco-centric’ critiques cannot be resolved by modernist ethics, as this takes humans as the only beings capable of intentionality and rationality. However, if intentionality and rationality are reconsidered as [...] Read more.
The need to adapt to climate change brings about moral concerns that according to ‘eco-centric’ critiques cannot be resolved by modernist ethics, as this takes humans as the only beings capable of intentionality and rationality. However, if intentionality and rationality are reconsidered as ‘counterfactual hypotheses’ it becomes possible to align modernist ethics with the eco-centric approaches. These counterfactual hypotheses guide the development of institutions, so as to allow the pursuit of a ‘good life’. This mean that society should be organized as if humans are intentional and, following Habermas’s idea of ‘communicative rationality’, as if humans are capable of collective deliberation. Given the ecological challenges, the question becomes how to give ecological concerns a voice in deliberative processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Article
Continuous Negotiation in Climate Adaptation: The Challenge of Co-Evolution for the Capability Approach to Justice
Sustainability 2021, 13(23), 13072; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132313072 - 25 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 643
Abstract
The capability approach is increasingly presented as a promising approach to address questions of justice in local climate adaptation. In an attempt to integrate environmental protections into the capability approach, Breena Holland developed the meta-capability Sustainable Ecological Capacity to establish substantive ecological limits. [...] Read more.
The capability approach is increasingly presented as a promising approach to address questions of justice in local climate adaptation. In an attempt to integrate environmental protections into the capability approach, Breena Holland developed the meta-capability Sustainable Ecological Capacity to establish substantive ecological limits. This article, however, empirically demonstrates that defining ecosystem thresholds in co-evolving systems is subject to conflict and continuous negotiation. Taking the Haringvliet dam in the Dutch South-West Delta as an illustrative case, this paper shows how people uphold different views about the Haringvliet’s most desirable ecosystem state. Future shifts in the socio-ecological system, such as decreased fresh water availability and sea-level rise, are expected to uproot today’s compromise about chloride levels in the Haringvliet. This suggests that anticipatory water management should not only address climate impacts, but also prepare for re-negotiations of established ecological thresholds. The associated politics of climate adaptation deals with questions about which functions to protect, at what costs and for whom. Hence, it is critical to integrate procedural justice and attention to political inequalities in capabilities-based adaptation justice frameworks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
A Healthy Metaphor? The North Sea Consultation and the Power of Words
Sustainability 2021, 13(22), 12905; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132212905 - 22 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 644
Abstract
The North Sea Consultation was set up to resolve conflicting claims for space in the North Sea. In 2020, this consultation process resulted in the North Sea Agreement, which was supported by the Dutch Parliament and cabinet as a long-term policy; however, the [...] Read more.
The North Sea Consultation was set up to resolve conflicting claims for space in the North Sea. In 2020, this consultation process resulted in the North Sea Agreement, which was supported by the Dutch Parliament and cabinet as a long-term policy; however, the fishing sector felt excluded, left the consultation process, and does not support the agreement. Using semi-constructed interviews and the method of wide reflective equilibrium, this research found that in this conflict the metaphor of ‘health’ has played a decisive role. While all stakeholders want to keep the sea ‘healthy’, they disagree on what a healthy sea actually means, leading to contrastive positions on the desirability of trawler fishing, wind parks, and conservation areas—the North Sea Agreement’s main foci of interest. To prevent the unproductive escalation of such a conflict, it is inevitable to acknowledge the moral connotations of such metaphors, as this allows a decision-making process that can be considered more just. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Does Distributive Justice Improve Welfare Outcomes in Climate Adaptation? An Exploration Using an Agent-Based Model of a Stylized Social–Environmental System
Sustainability 2021, 13(22), 12648; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132212648 - 16 Nov 2021
Viewed by 752
Abstract
Scholars increasingly propose distributive justice as a means to foster effective and fair outcomes in climate adaptation. To advance the discussion on its place in climate policy, it is desirable to be able to quantitatively assess the effects of different principles of distribution [...] Read more.
Scholars increasingly propose distributive justice as a means to foster effective and fair outcomes in climate adaptation. To advance the discussion on its place in climate policy, it is desirable to be able to quantitatively assess the effects of different principles of distribution on the well-being of unequally vulnerable individuals and groups. Here, we present an agent-based model of a stylized social–environmental system subject to an external stress such as a climate change impact, in which individuals with unequal access to resources attempt to fulfil an essential need through resource consumption. This causes environmental damage, and a balance must be found between the processes of resource consumption and environmental degradation to achieve well-being for people and stability for the environment. We operationalize different principles for redistributing resource access as interaction rules in the model and compare their tendency to allow such a balance to emerge. Our results indicate that while outcome patterns and effectiveness may vary among principles, redistribution generally improves well-being and system stability. We discuss some implications of our findings as they pertain to addressing the climate crisis and end by outlining the next steps for the research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Communication
Nature Is for Trees, Culture Is for Humans: A Critical Reading of the IPCC Report
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 11903; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132111903 - 28 Oct 2021
Viewed by 527
Abstract
In this article, we problematize conventional views regarding culture presented in the assessment report entitled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. This report is a contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We posit [...] Read more.
In this article, we problematize conventional views regarding culture presented in the assessment report entitled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. This report is a contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We posit that when culture is seen as a stable category and imagined as a space composed of humans—and, more precisely, only certain humans—an epistemological, ontological, and ethical order is reproduced in which (a) nature is framed as a passive and apolitical “out there”, (b) knowledge based on this division is misleading and partial (e.g., social scientists study culture and natural scientists study nature), and (c) dominant humanist assumptions become common-sense explanations for inequalities. We conduct a critical discourse analysis of the IPCC report to better understand which assumptions produce the conceptualization of culture as a stable category. In our conclusion, we offer an example of a semiotic-meaning intervention of a section of the report to demonstrate the vitality of the concepts presented in this document. Subsequently, we discuss the consequences of omitting the vital traffic between the biological, social, and cultural realms from discussions on climate change to reexamine the production and reproduction of inequalities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Article
Universal Metrics for Climate Change Adaptation Finance? A Cautionary Tale
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9428; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169428 - 22 Aug 2021
Viewed by 809
Abstract
Climate change adaptation is receiving ever more attention in the literature and in practice. Since available funds are not meeting adaptation needs, the question of how to allocate scarce resources becomes pressing. Universal adaptation metrics promise to facilitate the allocation process ex ante [...] Read more.
Climate change adaptation is receiving ever more attention in the literature and in practice. Since available funds are not meeting adaptation needs, the question of how to allocate scarce resources becomes pressing. Universal adaptation metrics promise to facilitate the allocation process ex ante and the evaluation of projects ex post. Two such metrics have been proposed recently: Saved Wealth (SW), measured in terms of money, and Saved Health (SH), gauged in terms of disability adjusted life-years (DALYs). The paper analyzes this SWSH approach and shows that it is replete with unresolved conceptual and normative-ethical problems, which are exemplary for universal metrics seeking to combine concerns for equity and efficiency at once. The paper’s aim is to uncover these issues, and its conclusion is modest: universal metrics such as SW and the DALY have to be designed and used with great caution and further research is necessary. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Article
Displacement Induced by Climate Change Adaptation: The Case of ‘Climate Buffer’ Infrastructure
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9160; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169160 - 16 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 874
Abstract
Climate buffer infrastructure is on the rise as a promising ‘green’ climate adaptation strategy. More often than not, such infrastructure building is legitimized as an urgent technical intervention—while less attention is paid to the distribution of costs and benefits among the affected population. [...] Read more.
Climate buffer infrastructure is on the rise as a promising ‘green’ climate adaptation strategy. More often than not, such infrastructure building is legitimized as an urgent technical intervention—while less attention is paid to the distribution of costs and benefits among the affected population. However, as this article shows, adaptation interventions may directly or indirectly result in the relocation or even eviction of households or communities, thereby increasing vulnerabilities for some while intending to reduce long-term climate vulnerabilities for all. We argue that this raises serious, if underappreciated, ethical issues that need to be more explicitly addressed in adaptation policy making. We illustrate our conceptual argument with the help of three examples of infrastructural ‘climate buffers’: Space for the River projects in the Netherlands, the Diamer–Bhasha dam in Pakistan and the coastal protection plan in Jakarta, Indonesia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Article
Making Sense of Resilience
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8538; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158538 - 30 Jul 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1186
Abstract
While resilience is a major concept in development, climate adaptation, and related domains, many doubts remain about how to interpret this term, its relationship with closely overlapping terms, or its normativity. One major view is that, while resilience originally was a descriptive concept [...] Read more.
While resilience is a major concept in development, climate adaptation, and related domains, many doubts remain about how to interpret this term, its relationship with closely overlapping terms, or its normativity. One major view is that, while resilience originally was a descriptive concept denoting some adaptive property of ecosystems, subsequent applications to social contexts distorted its meaning and purpose by framing it as a transformative and normative quality. This article advances an alternative philosophical account based on the scrutiny of C.S. Holling’s original work on resilience. We show that resilience had a central role among Holling’s proposals for reforming environmental science and management, and that Holling framed resilience as an ecosystem’s capacity of absorbing change and exploiting it for adapting or evolving, but also as the social ability of maintaining and opportunistically exploiting that natural capacity. Resilience therefore appears as a transformative social-ecological property that is normative in three ways: as an intrinsic ecological value, as a virtue of organizations or management styles, and as a virtuous understanding of human–nature relations. This interpretation accounts for the practical relevance of resilience, clarifies the relations between resilience and related terms, and is a firm ground for further normative work on resilience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Article
Distributing Responsibilities for Climate Adaptation: Examples from the Water Domain
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3676; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073676 - 25 Mar 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 800
Abstract
It is often assumed that climate adaptation policy asks for new responsibility arrangements between central government and citizens, with citizens getting a more prominent role. This prompts the question under which conditions these new responsibility arrangements can be justified as they may raise [...] Read more.
It is often assumed that climate adaptation policy asks for new responsibility arrangements between central government and citizens, with citizens getting a more prominent role. This prompts the question under which conditions these new responsibility arrangements can be justified as they may raise serious ethical concerns. Without paying due attention to these ethical concerns, climate adaptation policy may be unsuccessful and even be considered illegitimate. This paper aims to address this topic by exploring some examples of climate adaptation responses and their associated ethical challenges. The examples from the water domain differ in terms of their primary beneficiaries and the extent to which they are prone to collective action problems. Discussion of the examples shows that any shift of responsibilities towards citizens should be accompanied by a governmental responsibility to make sure that citizens are indeed able to assume these responsibilities and a responsibility to see to it that the greater involvement of responsibilities does not create disproportional inequalities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethics of Climate Adaptation)
Back to TopTop