SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • climate ethics;
  • governmentality;
  • IPCC;
  • resilience;
  • sustainable development

ABSTRACT

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Social Ecological Reasoning
  5. Method
  6. Ecological Ethical Reasoning
  7. The Professionalization of Climate Ethics
  8. References

Solutions to climate change have been academically criticized for their continued economic growth, managerialism and lack of real politics. In comparison, the IPCC's socio-economic assessments of climate change have accentuated the ethical implications of their own policy recommendations. Our analysis of ten IPCC reports (1990–2012) shows a turn from a claimed non-political position in human-induced climate change to an outspoken ethical position in climate-induced disasters. We argue that a professionalization of climate ethics is sought through ecological reason, specifically by calls for resilience to foster adaptable subjects. This neoliberal position leans on a problematization of vulnerable subjects' resistance to social adaptation, underpinned by an aim to redirect resistance towards physical disasters to stimulate climate adaptation. Conclusively, climate ethical mastery is formed by detailed elaborations of how the vulnerable subject should not only subsume to ecological reason, but also ethically embrace physical threats and dangers as if productive of life supportive qualities. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Social Ecological Reasoning
  5. Method
  6. Ecological Ethical Reasoning
  7. The Professionalization of Climate Ethics
  8. References

The general shift ‘from ruling to helping’ in late liberalism has transformed the Western security–development nexus into resilience–sustainable development, with increasing demands for adaptable self-reliant subjects (Duffield, 2007). Rather than security of states and their populations, sustainable development has taken the referent object of security to be the life of ‘all living systems’, in which ‘resilience’ has become a new policy problematic (Reid, 2012). The interest to foster ‘life’ has also spread to various professions and practices through advancements of ecological systems theory and complexity science (Walker and Cooper, 2011).

How resilience is coupled to an increasing professionalization of climate ethics has not yet been thoroughly examined. While climate policies have been argued to govern climate change at a distance (see, e.g., Methmann, 2011; Oels, 2005) and to manage risks in a reconfiguration of life as resilient (Oels, 2011), we seek to study how the human is governed at a distance by ethical claims made by experts. Our primary focus is on expert views of which vital ways of living are sought in advanced liberal forms of government (Rose, 1999, p. 140). This ‘biopolitics’, or fostering of life, is not only based on the problematization of the ‘demographic upswing’ in the 18th century (Foucault, 1976/1980, p. 171) and the growing interest in vitalizing the ‘population’ in the 19th century (Foucault, 2008). In more recent ‘scientific descriptions of what it means to be a living thing’, biopolitics has also tuned in on complexity, circulation and connectivity to govern through contingency (Dillon and Lobo-Guerrero, 2009).

Although ‘green governmentality’ literature has considered how human subjectivity is shaped with the aid of expertise (Rutherford, 2007), ethical concerns pursued by this expertise are seldom addressed (however see Lövbrand et al., 2009). A few studies have exemplified climate related expertise in detail. For example, Methmann (2011) discusses the ‘carbon professional identity’, Luke (1996) the teaching profession and Brand (2007) city administrators in sustainable urban planning. In comparison, it has not been explicitly considered how descriptions of climate change are scrutinized in terms of ethical complications with uncertainty inherent in policy recommendations (cf. Miller and Rose, 2008, p. 107). How are we to understand such climate ethics and its effects if our focus is on the expert ethical subject? Hence, by means of a detailed analysis of how ethical issues evolve in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports between 1990 and 2012, we seek to complement previous post-Foucauldian studies of this climate expertise (e.g. Oels, 2011).

First, we contextualize the reports by an introduction to the approach of ‘environmental change’ and ‘the human dimensions perspective’, because these share the same vocabulary as the IPCC reports. We also introduce studies that have analysed and explored the effects of ‘social ecological reasoning’. Following a short method section, we illustrate how ethics evolves in the reports as ‘ecological ethical reasoning’, after which we conclude our findings.

Social Ecological Reasoning

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Social Ecological Reasoning
  5. Method
  6. Ecological Ethical Reasoning
  7. The Professionalization of Climate Ethics
  8. References

The concepts of ‘sensitivity’, ‘vulnerability’ and ‘adaptive capacity’ are fundamental to the approach of ‘environmental change’. This approach seeks an enhanced understanding of human–environment interactions, theorized as socio-ecological systems. Socio-ecological systems are based on realist accounts of how human action and social structures are integral to nature (see Adger, 2006) and in which the notion of resilience intermingles with vulnerability and adaptive capacity (Gallopín, 2006). With the overall aim to sustain and develop, assumptions of resilience primarily construct a worldview of ‘non-equilibrium’, aiming for ‘general ability to persist disturbance’. The preferred reality of resilience also includes learning, autonomous self-organization and the opening up of opportunities to recombine. (see, e.g., Folke, 2006)

‘The human dimensions perspective’ aims to advance knowledge as to the effects of individual and collective actions on the environment (Jäger, 2003). It establishes the concepts of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘adaptation’ in a direct relation to the human. While vulnerability has been historically linked to personal injury due to natural hazards, adaptation has been traced back to early 20th century anthropology (see Janssen et al., 2006). Synergies have also been proposed between resilience of socio-ecological systems and vulnerability research, mainly due to the assumption that vulnerability is ‘a powerful analytical tool’ that describes ‘powerlessness’ and ‘marginality’ and guides normative solutions that reduce risk and enhance well-being (Adger, 2006).

Turning to political science, it has been argued that the targeting of vulnerable people in developing countries is coupled to an inception of constant distress, disastrousness and struggle with oneself or one's collective through calls for individual empowerment, individual capacity building and self-reliance (Chandler, 2012; Duffield, 2007; Reid, 2012). Duffield (2011, p. 10) even illustrates how resilience-thinking in the 1970s ‘all-emergency-planning’ transferred war technologies to ‘civic space’ to address uncertainties in between war and natural disasters. Somewhat surprisingly, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) classifies resilience as a fundamental ‘freedom’, which Reid (2012) argues to be a fostering of a more contemporary entrepreneurial self that is obliged to buffer change, absorb threats and adapt. However, this is less of a surprise if we look back on how ecological reason has been merged with neoliberal ideas of complex adaptive systems (Walker and Cooper, 2011). Consequently, resilience has not been formed as an obligation and a capacity of a state, but as a ‘capacity of life itself’ (Reid, 2012). Sustainable development is thus prone to support the neoliberal critique of the state, Reid concludes (also see Jensen, 2007). It leaves us with

Not a political subject which can conceive of changing the world, its structure and conditions for possibility, with a view of securing itself from the world. But a subject which accepts the disastrousness of the world it lives in as a condition for partaking of that world and which accepts the injunction to change itself in correspondence with the threats and dangers now presupposed as endemic (Reid, 2012, p. 74).

Another derivation of the debasement of the political subject in climate change is offered by Swyngedouw (2010), who argues that political action is forestalled by a dislocation of CO2 from its sources. In Swyngedouw's view, climate change expertise has a de-politicizing function, in that it evacuates the proper political dimension from the public terrain through technocratic management. Political concerns are consequently displaced beyond dispute, and dissensus or disagreement is expelled due to consensus seeking.

Such a perspective on de-politicization has been criticized by social theory. Urry (2011, pp. 90f) questions Swyngedouw's radical position and quest for alternative narratives. He points to the nostalgia and similar arguments found in Marcuse's critique in the 1960s, and asks for a more nuanced view of the many climate politics involved. Urry points to a ‘strange politics’ of climate change that calls for ‘reduced abundance now, so as to ensure reasonable abundance in the long term’, directed against others but primarily against oneself (Urry, 2011, p. 100).

In comparison with Urry, Chandler (2012) focuses on the indirect rule of international interventions and presents another form of climate politics. Focusing on individual empowerment and capacity building of the ‘vulnerable’, he describes how local ownership discourse unfolds. He argues that the material emphasis inherent in early development discourse is downplayed. Instead, human agency and the lifestyle choices of the poor are lined up and targeted in its place. Turning to African ‘underdevelopment’, he shows how different policies and non-governmental organizations rely on the ‘adaptation agenda’ to suggest survival strategies for the poor: thus attempting to align the marginalized with ‘vulnerability to climate change’, instead of addressing the broader economic and social factors that gave rise to their marginalized position.

Studies with an interest in the function of carbon markets through climate self-regulation have also applied the framework of ‘governmentality’ (see, e.g., Foucault, 1978/1991, 2005, pp. 249–253; Miller and Rose, 2008, p. 212; for a criticism see Dean, 2007, pp. 81–107). Paterson and Stripple distinctly illustrate how the enabling state functions through carbon technologies that spur self-management (2012) and narcissistic subjects (2010). Rather than arriving at accusations of how a neoliberal displacement of the state places responsibilities on the individual, or leads to a universal opposition to collectives, the authors describe how guidance is facilitated through individual subjectivity that in extension reconstructs collectives (2010). Social processes that are decentralized by individuals' calculative relations to carbon are likewise coupled to ‘biopolitical techniques’ of statistics and data collection to facilitate the enabling state governing at a distance (2012).

Method

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Social Ecological Reasoning
  5. Method
  6. Ecological Ethical Reasoning
  7. The Professionalization of Climate Ethics
  8. References

We have chosen to analyse climate ethics in the IPCC's socio-economic summary reports directed at policymakers (1990, 1995, 2001a, 2001b, 2007a, 2007b) and produced by Working Groups II and III (WG II and WG III). These socio-economic reports have been neglected because most discussions about climate change focus on descriptions of rising temperatures and material impacts, predominantly outlined by Working Group I. Each report consists of approximately 20–30 pages and contains themes and definitions that have been analysed previously (Skoglund, 2011). We have also added two new IPCC reports from 2012, because these exemplify an accentuation of resilience and ethics. The first covers disaster management and climate adaptation (2012a), the second economy and ethics (2012b).

Looking at the IPCC as a ‘centre of re-presentation’ of knowledge (Rose, 1999, p. 211), we analyse how a ‘professionalization’ of ethics emerges as climate change is constructed in relation to ethics. The diverse members of the IPCC are not of interest here. Rather, we are curious about how certain ways of talking about ethics in climate change have become possible, and how this produces an abstract collective author subject that shifts over time. Hence, our focus is on how climate change policy recommendations produce subject positions reciprocal to an expert ethical subject. A potential ‘professionalization’ thus evolves and transforms with the IPCC's self-representations of particular authority, mandates, stakes and qualities (cf. Potter, 1996, p. 86). The reports are further analysable as shifts in political privileges, comparable to how Foucault studied the professionalization of philosophy (Foucault, 2005) and the ‘doctor’ in the 18th and 19th century health discourse (Foucault, 1976/1980, p. 177).

Ecological Ethical Reasoning

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Social Ecological Reasoning
  5. Method
  6. Ecological Ethical Reasoning
  7. The Professionalization of Climate Ethics
  8. References

The 1990 (IPCC, 1990) Executive Summary addresses a historical reality of human industrial activity that is causally linked to the greenhouse gas effect. The primary task is outspokenly said to be technical and not political. It is stated that human induced warming of the planet will ‘change the composition of ecosystems’ (p. xxv). Additional warming is not extensively stressed as dangerous. Warmth is rather treated as having both positive and negative effects, whereby ecosystem composition is treated as a balancing act between economy and nature. However, for this to be further investigated, more information from developing countries is said to be needed.

Balancing the human construct of economy in relation to the climate is offered by means of two strategies: limitation and adaptation. Whereas limitation is to mitigate climate change by better risk assessments, adaptation is a preparation for the random nature of the climate through ‘emergency and disaster preparedness policies and programmes’ (p. xxvii). These two ‘strategies’ have to be considered as interlinked and complementary ‘to minimize net costs’. Moreover, limitation strategies will ‘make it easier to adapt to climate change’ (p. xxvi).

The 1990 self-narration of being a technical rather than a political expertise seeks an objective and neutral subject position. By referring to facts and sought objectivity, the narrative position avoids sensitive issues and potential conflicts (Potter, 1996, p. 109). How it is seen to be possible to balance practices in comparison with nature also supports the neutrality of an ‘external’ position from which to judge. By claiming a lack of knowledge, the IPCC positions itself at the core, strengthens its authority and targets developing countries as those that primarily need to become more participative in order to facilitate the spread of climate expertise.

The 1995 report (IPCC, 1995) seeks to update ‘information on the same range of topics’ as in 1990, adding ‘the new subject area of technical issues related to the economic aspects of climate change’ (p. ii). The working group constructs itself as seeking to ‘avoid policy judgements’ (p. viii) and as placing ‘the socio-economic perspectives of climate change in the context of sustainable development’, adding that ‘[t]he chapters are an assessment of the available literature in economics, and to a lesser extent in other social sciences’ (p. x). The report now presents decision-makers with ‘a set of formidable complications’ (p. xx) and the IPCC introduces the principle of ‘no regrets’ (footnote 2, p. 15). WG III also offers ‘prudent ways’ and ‘prudent strateg[ies]’, as well as adjustable ‘portfolio[s]’ aimed at ‘mitigation, adaptation, and improvement of knowledge’ that will differ depending on the country concerned (p. 5).

Another difference from 1990 is that references to cost evaluations are accentuated and comparisons of economic effects intensified. But even if possibilities for action are framed in economic terms and futures, the IPCC adds that monetary valuation ‘should not obscure the human consequences of anthropogenic climate change damages, because the value of life has meaning beyond monetary considerations’ (p. 10). Also, the endangering of whole cultures should be considered as a potential ‘loss of human diversity’ (p. 10).

In 1995, the climate expertise moves towards economics and cost–benefit evaluations and sticks to the previous technical language and an outspoken position of being external to judgements. This seemingly neutral position is strengthened by how the IPCC points to the complex mission ahead. By problematizing the decision-making process that will necessarily follow after its policy recommendations, responsibility for action is dispersed. Presenting something as formidably difficult equally brackets off other, so called less developed, and thus ‘simple’ alternatives, which strengthens the need for expertise. The IPCC frames ethics by referring to non-regretfulness and prudency. Further, the implicit risk of policy interventions is admittedly handled by risk diversification, i.e. portfolio alternatives depending on country. The climate expert thus moves away from a spread of risk assessments and a balancing of the economy and nature towards a spread of risks and a balancing of policy interventions.

In 2001 (IPCC, 2001a), the aim is to describe ‘the current state of understanding of the impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability to climate change and their uncertainties’ (p. 3). Here we see that uncertainty has shifted from a lack of scientific knowledge of the human-induced character of temperature increases to a modulation of its probable impacts. Overall, new vulnerabilities are produced (e.g. the vulnerability of ‘natural and human systems’, p. 17) as well as ‘changing vulnerabilities’ (p. 16). Mitigation, on the other hand, is downplayed in favour of adaptation. Adaptation is proposed to be a ‘complex challenge’ and ‘opportunity’ in which private and public actors could contribute to disaster preparedness (p. 13). In 2001, the shift from scientific and socio-economic uncertainties to insecurities (vulnerable communities and lack of adaptive capacities) is the fundamental construction at play (for indigenous peoples and ecosystems, see p. 16).

In addition, adaptation is said to have ‘the potential to reduce adverse impacts of climate change and to enhance beneficial impacts, but will incur costs’ (p. 6). At the same time, both human and natural systems are produced as ‘autonomous’ to some degree, where ‘planned adaptation can supplement autonomous adaptation, though options and incentives are greater for adaptation of human systems than for adaptation to protect natural systems’ (p. 8). This implies a position in which adaptation has a self-regulative element as well as an element that should be directed, and where additional structures are proposed in order to buffer change. However, the expertise proclaims that, if the adaptive capacity is to be maintained, the buffering has to be upheld by the insurance and financial industries.

From the assertive statements about the human-induced character of climate change in the 1990s to the scientific uncertainty of climate change as a fact and the impact it might have, uncertainty in 2001 is related to risks with decision-making. Here decision-making is coupled to ‘complexity’ and ‘irreversibility’. The WG III opens up for ‘alternative development paths’ and refers ‘to a variety of possible scenarios for societal values and consumption and production patterns in all countries’ (IPCC, 2001b) (footnote 4, p. 3). Alternatives and approaches to equity are classified into a variety of categories. ‘Storylines’ are introduced to exemplify possible lifestyles and to model future emissions (IPCC, 2001b, p. 5).

In 2001, the climate expertise accentuates its position as a producer of vulnerability. A technical base is no longer offered. Instead, ‘understandings’ of climate change must be handled carefully, i.e. a softer approach is created by promoting the complexity, adaptation and adaptive capacities of the vulnerable subject. A link between governing and governed is sought as people are located and addressed as vulnerable and details of their potential lifestyles highlighted. Constructing ‘human systems’ as even more adaptable than natural ones also turns adaptation into a plausible potential accomplishment. Solutions to prevent climate change are gradually downplayed.

In 2007 (IPCC, 2007a) a shift occurs towards the exploration of synergies and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation. Here the aim seems to be to reduce vulnerability within a framework of sustainable development and ‘increasing resilience’ (p. 20) and to indicate that ‘[s]ustainable development can reduce vulnerability to climate change, and climate change could impede nations’ abilities to achieve sustainable development pathways' (p. 20).

Scientific uncertainty is relocated as changes and various impacts of climate change are stated to be observable. The report even points to ‘evidence of […] human activity to adapt to observed and anticipated climate change’ (p. 19). The inconclusiveness of the futurology at hand is in this way avoided, while responses are proposed in order to stimulate ‘adaptive capacity’. Constructed as a system's ability to ‘adjust to climate change’ and ‘take advantage of opportunities’, adaptive capacity should help to ‘moderate potential damages’ and ‘cope with the consequences’ (p. 21). The shift from mitigation to adaptation is furthered by the conclusion that ‘[e]ven the most stringent mitigation efforts cannot avoid further impacts of climate change in the next few decades’ (p. 20).

Overall, the report remoulds uncertainties in favour of complexities and techniques that could buffer them. The goal is to implement ‘proactive climate change risk management adaptation plans’ (p. 14). Such plans are stated to need increased surveillance and monitoring systems. The WG III (IPCC, 2007b) continues to stress adaptation, but also develops the concept ‘mitigation potential […] to assess the scale of GHG reductions that could be made, relative to emission baselines, for a given level of carbon price’ (p. 7). Three main criteria are used to evaluate policies and instruments: environmental effectiveness, cost effectiveness and distributional effects, including equity and institutional feasibility (p. 21).

In 2007 the mandate to speak increases as the IPCC intensifies its reference to observable changes. The sought objective subject position of technical but uncertain scientific facts is partly transformed through assertions of seen impacts. When climate change is constructed as already occurring, the reduction of vulnerability also becomes an ethically legitimate target. The expertise aligns with the sustainable development agenda and draws on resilience, and at the same time strengthens its work by increased surveillance and monitoring. Inequalities and institutional issues emerge as increasingly important, in addition to a continued inclusion of cost effectiveness. Expertise is no longer sought by claiming non-political, value free positions, but by linking policy recommendations to political circumstances in different countries. The main activity is to identify possible territorial strategies that could hinder or facilitate the buffering of the changes that are taking place. The expertise is not so much about the risk assessment of climate change and possible solutions, but more about the risk assessment of populations' and states' abilities to handle climate change.

A special report in 2012 (IPCC, 2012a) makes the shift towards adaptive capacities even more salient. It emphasizes the risk management of extreme events as leading to climate change adaptation. The concept of ‘resistance’ is introduced, first of all as ‘resistance to various challenges’ of risk management (p. 37) and thereafter as ‘resistance to the potential impacts of physical events’ (p. 38, bold in original). The report complements the physical aspects by pointing to social aspects and underlines ‘universal concepts and strategies involved in the consideration of reducing disaster risks, including actions and activities enacted pre-impact’ (p. 34). The interaction of climate change with the vulnerability of human and natural systems to ‘mitigate negative impacts once disaster materializes’ (p. 33) is also considered. Anthropogenic climate change, natural climate variability and socio-economic development are pinpointed as different elements that together give rise to vulnerability and disasters, where risks ‘cannot be fully eliminated’ (p. 4). The focus of the report therefore turns to the potential ‘resilience’ of humans and nature. Resilience is moreover explicitly explained for natural systems:

[A]mong trees, for example, natural selection has the potential to evolve appropriate resilience to extremes (at some cost). Resistance to windthrow is strongly species-dependent, having evolved according to the climatology where that tree was indigenous […]. In their original habitat, trees typically withstand wind extremes expected every 10 to 50 years […] (p. 44).

In addition, the report scrutinizes the concept of resilience as the expertise elaborates on its different interpretations and relations to ‘coping’ (p. 34). Reflecting on several of the concepts used, the report establishes that ‘disaster’ is a ‘social construction’ that has included many social choices, actions and inactions (p. 36). Compared with its earlier reports, the IPCC proposes an alternative definition of vulnerability: ‘the social context is emphasized explicitly, and vulnerability is considered independent of physical events’ (p. 33) (cf. definition by Oels, 2011). In turn, adaptation is said to be accomplished by small adjustments, transformations or ‘fundamental change’ (IPCC, 2012a, p. 3) at regional, national and international levels in order to reach a sustainable and resilient future. Disaster risk management is also broadly defined as giving rise to increasing ‘human security, well-being, quality of life, resilience and sustainable development’ (p. 5). Risk sharing and insurance systems are discussed in parallel to post-disaster recovery mechanisms and the avoidance of ‘tipping points’. The balancing of systems is outflanked in favour of resilience as ‘the ability to self-organize, learn, and adapt over time’ (p. 28). The report then concludes that resilience should also include an improvement of ‘essential basic structures and functions’ (p. 34). The report on disaster management further constructs climate change as a problem that arose due to development and ‘skewed development’ (p. 37). Hence, the role of policies in shaping disaster risk is reflected on as well.

This close-up of the ethical issues included in climate policies is also found in the report summarizing a Work Plan meeting held in Lima in 2011 (IPCC, 2012b). This report includes the behavioural challenges in linking adaptation and mitigation, the balancing of equity and efficiency considerations and the ethical dimensions of adaptation and mitigation policies. Uncertainty is mostly dealt with in relation to decision-making when values other than monetary ones are to be estimated, and when distributional ethics and equity are to be considered. The experts also question the anthropocentrism in the economic concept of value and assert that ‘ethical judgments on the part of the researcher are important to make explicit and to justify’ (p. 6). ‘Intrinsic values of nature’ should also be estimated.

Uncertainty ‘regarding how components of human and natural systems are valued’ (p. 45) is also reported. The approach is somewhat similar to that in earlier reports: ethics ‘requires technical and quantitative methods that can be supplied by economics, decision theory, and other quantitative and technical disciplines’ (p. 45). However, here ethics is problematized with reference to ‘philosophy literature’ and the concept of ‘moral uncertainty’ (p. 9) and a more critical standpoint is presented:

[M]oral philosophy contains disagreement. It will be the responsibility of the moral philosophers in the Working Groups to represent the extent of the disagreement. But probably a more important part of our role will be a critical one. Ethical presumptions are implicitly or explicitly embedded in many of the existing methods of evaluation. They will need to be brought into the open and assessed (p. 45).

The report continuously discusses the contradictions between private and public perceptions of climate risk and how issues of ‘cognitive myopia’ and non-economic rationality (myopic behaviour) affect mitigation and adaptation (pp. 2, 15, 60). There is also an accentuation of a belief in ‘co-benefits’, although here co-benefits are problematized as entailing valuation difficulties. It is emphasized that ‘great differences in income or material circumstances’ make ‘comparing and aggregating economic value across regions’ ethically problematical. This is proposed to be adjusted by ‘measuring how an average Indian household would value an item if it had the same income as an average European household’ (p. 5).

In 2012 the climate expertise is shaped by the fact that disasters are displayed as a way of facilitating climate change adaptation. Since disasters are partly decoupled from the scientific statistical uncertainty of the human-induced character of climate change, uncertainty becomes all the more prevalent. An unassailable character of nature as uncertain is constructed, by which the expertise promotes disastrousness with the aim of fostering adaptable subjects. The factual account of ‘resilience’ is also strengthened by how a description of nature, in the form of the resilient tree, is used as a truth that cannot be politically disputed (cf. Potter, 1996, p. 89).

Resistance to policy implementation is outspokenly discussed, and resistance is re-defined as action of force to be exercised against ecological impacts. The way is cleared for a smoother policy implementation of how humans should become more resilient – in much the same way that trees have been assessed to resist windthrow. The potentially resisting subject is thus redirected from political reason and the creation of potential futures towards ecological reason and a life lived in pre-prognosed materialized disaster conditions. Political problems, and even the political subject, are thus enfolded in ecological reasoning. Earlier policy interventions are discussed as ‘skewed’ and ethical issues are raised for more direct inclusion – all of which points to the formation of a climate ethical profession.

With an increased focus on ethics, the professionalization unfolds in more self-reflective mode as descriptions and recommendations. Individual judgements are even regarded as having an effect on the outcome of the policy recommendation. Addressing the criticism of having a dilemmatic stake, and perhaps even a ‘Western’ agenda, the pronunciation of judgements can be seen as a ‘stake confession’, i.e. avoiding being accused of unreflective judgements (cf. Potter, 1996, pp. 110, 125–131). Consequently, transparency is proposed to be what the climate expertise should develop. This works as a ‘defensive rhetoric’ (Potter, 1996, p. 107) that helps to address a potential disability to resist discounting. It also results in a defensive position that reflects the traditional ethical subject of science. In short, the professionalization of climate ethics leads to an accentuation of transparency as a legitimate position from which to speak (cf. ‘reflexive government’ in Dean, 2010, p. 223).

The earlier focus on the balancing of the economy and nature, costs and solutions, is also complemented by more detailed debates on monetization. Similar attempts to increase the virtue of the expertise, such as exploring ways of justifying ethical presumptions, ethical climate policy interventions across territories, long-term thinking, values inherent in nature and various people's value systems, constitute this infant ethical profession. In other words, it is no longer a profession that self-narrates as ‘technical and not political’. Rather, the main discursive concerns have become the uncertain effects of policies and how to ward off any responsibility for these by encouraging people to become more resilient.

The Professionalization of Climate Ethics

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Social Ecological Reasoning
  5. Method
  6. Ecological Ethical Reasoning
  7. The Professionalization of Climate Ethics
  8. References

In the earlier reports of 1990 and 1995, climate change was constructed as partly human induced and calls were made for a balancing of the economy and nature. In the later reports of 2007 and 2012, climate change was constructed in relation to different types of uncertainty, an abundance of risks and disasters and the quest to bridge economy, ethics and resilience. This included the emergence of a professionalization of ethics that involved more than consensus seeking from a scientific base (Swyngedouw, 2010). Whereas Swyngedouw showed how a technocratic expert management and market-based socio-economic organization excluded social and ecological problems, we have focused on the effects of vocabularies that emphasize a socio-ecological perspective. Such a focus shows that ‘skewed policies’ have become an area of interest in more recent IPCC policy reports.

Hence, we suggest that a shift of analytical attention towards how the authority of policy-makers increases as they contest the ethics of their own interventions could prove fruitful. What our analysis points to is that the professionalization of climate ethics is formed around defensive rhetorical efforts in order to anticipate criticism of climate expertise and, in extension, policy interventions, i.e. a defensive ethical position that is moulded by an increased articulation of various stakes, interests and quests for transparency.

Time will tell whether this ethical position is temporary or if the 2012 reports are testament of IPCC being a vanguard thereof. However, the emphasis on a certain kind of ethics, based on a shift from a claim of non-political judgements towards quests for rational ways of dealing with ethical judgements, may also give rise to an ‘ethical divide’ (cf. Foucault, 2005, pp. 74f). At the same time as the IPCC targets the ‘vulnerability’ of the other and launches its deterministic portrait of their life chances, it separates those who have the ability to engage in a privileged form of ethics from those who do not. However, the possibility of humanity becoming extinct is not emphasized. Instead, the climate ethics focus on disastrous events that are seen as productive of human change. Disaster is thus conceived as being possible to respond to by climate adaptation – by training humans to resist eco-physical events and to become as resilient as non-human species. The IPCC thus discusses resistance to social adaptation and then turns to resistance to physical disasters to stimulate climate adaptation and self-securing subjects. As less of a threat to themselves, such subjects have since long been the liberal way of reducing threat to governance and world order (Reid, 2012).

The material element in development discourse is noticeably included by the IPCC. It refers to European standards as a base for valuation, which in turn contributes to a technical and Eurocentric climate ethical position. The IPCC reports do not draw as much on the human as Chandler (2012) derived in his study of philosophy of sustainable development. Nevertheless, the ability to investigate, assay and evaluate life and ways of living is also facilitated by a focus on ‘helping’ the vulnerable to adapt. Conclusively, the sought professionalization of climate ethics does not support all living systems, but biopolitically optimizes adaptable ones.

The creation of a vulnerable subject also facilitates the transformation of ‘climate science’ into a professionalization of its ethics. Descriptions of the vulnerable make it easier for the IPCC to self-subsume as the master of neutral suggestions of equal, just and fair improvements to life itself. However, it is not only climate risks that are included in this strategy. It also opens up for a comprehensive assessment of risks among ‘individuals, groups and localities’ and advanced liberal government (Rose, 2001). How an assessment of the vulnerable will be pursued in terms of measuring their lack of resemblance to nature, i.e. their lack of resilience due to their inability or failure to adapt, is a question for future research.

What our analysis shows is that resilience as a neoliberal critique of the state could be strengthened by Western forms of ‘ethical politics’ and a future de-professionalization of climate ethics that resists state or governmental elections (Rose, 1999, p. 2). That is, the professionalization of climate ethics may grow in parallel to a ‘de-professionalization’ (cf. Foucault, 2005, pp. 143f) due to the fact that subjectification processes are utterly human. The human capacity to subject to vulnerability, perhaps through identification with vulnerable trees, may become part of a climate ethical self-regulation, which aims to direct and optimize adaptive capacities of humans in an informed way. Likewise, this explains how talk about climate change may govern the human subject at a distance through various forms of self-regulation (cf. Paterson and Stripple, 2010, 2012).

Our analysis is indebted to Foucault's analysis of how political action is linked to the philosophical profession and to historical shifts in the principle of ‘the care of the self’ (Foucault, 2005). As Foucault demonstrates, this principle does not always prepare the individual for professional or social activity, but acts as a sort of self-insurance in order to deal with sudden events, surprise accidents and misfortunes (Foucault, 2005, p. 94). However, the professionalization of climate ethics is seemingly formed by a mastery of constructing others as vulnerable subjects so as to make them ‘accept[ing] the disastrousness of the world’ (Reid, 2012). The climate ethical master thus constitutes itself by elaborations on how the vulnerable subject in particular and humankind in general should subsume to ecological reason and ethically embrace and assay physical threats and dangers as if productive of life supportive qualities.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Social Ecological Reasoning
  5. Method
  6. Ecological Ethical Reasoning
  7. The Professionalization of Climate Ethics
  8. References
  • Adger WN. 2006. Vulnerability. Global Environmental Change 16: 268281.
  • Brand P. 2007. Green subjection: the politics of neoliberal urban environmental management. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 31: 616632.
  • Chandler D. 2012. Development as freedom? From colonialism to countering climate change. Development Dialogue 58: 115130.
  • Dean M. 2007. Governing Societies, Political Perspectives on Domestic and International Rule. Open University Press: New York.
  • Dean M. 2010. Governmentality, Power and Rule in Modern Society (2nd edn). Sage: London.
  • Dillon M, Lobo-Guerrero L. 2009. The biopolitical imaginary of species-being. Theory, Culture and Society 26: 123.
  • Duffield M. 2007. Development, Security and Unending War, Governing the World of Peoples. Polity: Cambridge.
  • Duffield M. 2011. Environmental Terror: Uncertainty, Resilience and the Bunker, SPAIS Working Paper 06-11. University of Bristol: Bristol.
  • Folke C. 2006. Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for socio-ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change 16: 253267.
  • Foucault M. 1976/1980. The politics of health in the eighteenth century. In Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, Gordon C (ed.). Harvester: New York; 166182.
  • Foucault M. 1978/1991. Governmentality. In The Foucault Effect – Studies in Governmentality With Two Lectures and Interviews with Michel Foucault, Burchell G, Gordon C, Miller P (eds). University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL; 87104.
  • Foucault M. 2005. The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981–1982, Burchell G (trans.), Frédéric G (ed.). Palgrave Macmillan–Picador: New York.
  • Foucault M. 2008. Samhället Måste Försvaras, Collège de France 1975–1976, Lydén K (trans.). Tankekraft: Stockholm.
  • Gallopín CG. 2006. Linkages between vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity. Global Environmental Change 16: 293303.
  • IPCC. 1990. Policymakers Summary of the Response Strategies Working Group of the IPCC, IPCC WG III.
  • IPCC. 1995. The IPCC Economic and Social Dimensions of Climate Change, Working Group III, Summary for Policymakers. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • IPCC. 2001a. Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Working Group II, Summary for Policymakers.
  • IPCC. 2001b. Mitigation, Working Group III, Summary for Policymakers.
  • IPCC. 2007a. Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • IPCC. 2007b. Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • IPCC. 2012a. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Special Report of the IPCC. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • IPCC. 2012b. IPCC Expert Meeting on Economic Analysis, Costing Methods, and Ethics – Meeting Report. IPCC WG II/WG III. Lima.
  • Jäger J. 2003. Institutions for global environmental change. Global Environmental Change 13: 6973.
  • Janssen AM, Schoon LM, Ke W, Börner K. 2006. Scholarly networks on resilience, vulnerability and adaptation within the human dimensions of global environmental change. Global Environmental Change 16: 240252.
  • Jensen T. 2007. Moral responsibility and the business and sustainable development assemblage: a Jonasian ethics for the technological age. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development 2: 116129.
  • Luke TW. 1996. Generating Green Governmentality: a Cultural Critique of Environmental Studies as a Power/Knowledge Formation. Department of Political Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Blacksburg, VA.
  • Lövbrand E, Stripple J, Wiman B. 2009. Earth system governmentality – reflections on science in the anthroposcene. Global Environmental Change 19: 713.
  • Methmann CP. 2011. The sky is the limit: global warming as global governmentality. European Journal of International Relations. DOI: 10.1177/1354066111415300
  • Miller P, Rose N. 2008. Governing the Present. Polity: Cambridge.
  • Oels A. 2005. Rendering climate change governable: from biopower to advanced liberal government? Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 7: 185207.
  • Oels A. 2011. Rendering climate change governable by risk: from probability to contingency. Geoforum in press. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2011.09.007
  • Paterson M, Stripple J. 2010. My Space: governing individuals' carbon emissions. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28: 341362.
  • Paterson M, Stripple J. 2012. Virtuous carbon. Environmental Politics 21: 563582.
  • Potter J. 1996. Representing Reality – Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. Sage: London.
  • Reid J. 2012. The disastrous and politically debased subject of resilience. Development Dialogue 58: 6780.
  • Rose N. 1999. Powers of Freedom – Reframing Political Thought. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • Rose N. 2001. The politics of life itself. Theory, Culture and Society 18: 130.
  • Rutherford S. 2007. Green governmentality: insights and opportunities in the study of nature's rule. Progress in Human Geography 31: 291307.
  • Skoglund A. 2011. Homo Clima, Styrning Genom Klimatförändring som Bioestetisk Inramning, PhD Thesis 2011:04. Royal Institute of Technology: Stockholm.
  • Swyngedouw E. 2010. Apocalypse forever?: Post-political populism and the spectre of climate change. Theory, Culture and Society 27: 213232.
  • Urry J. 2011. Climate Change and Society. Polity: Cambridge.
  • Walker J, Cooper M. 2011. Genealogies of resilience: from systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation. Security Dialogue 41: 143160.