Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

Inequality and Climate Justice in an Overheated World
Location Senate House - Court Room
Date and Start Time 28 May, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Astrid Stensrud (University of Oslo) email
  • Elisabeth Schober (University of Oslo) email

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Discussant Ben Campbell

Short Abstract

The causes and effects of climate change are linked to the workings of global capitalism, the striving for economic growth, increasing social inequalities and the making of environmental justice claims. How is the double bind between economic growth and ecological viability negotiated?

Long Abstract

The causes and effects of climate change are connected to the workings of global capitalism, the striving for economic growth, increasing social inequalities and environmental justice claims. This panel will explore human-environment-capital relationships in a world that is undergoing accelerated change, and discuss how issues of climate change and environmental crisis can be articulated together with issues of inequality vs. justice. In the midst of heated debates surrounding global warming and mitigation plans, governments all over the world continue to strive for economic growth, while popular movements - especially in the Global South - increasingly link claims for environmental and social justice in their struggles. Climate debt and climate justice are concepts that are used to demonstrate how the causes and effects of global warming are unequally distributed between the Global North and South and between the rich and the poor. Given that climate change often intersects with the making of livelihoods, we ask how the double bind between material wealth and ecological viability is negotiated. How are everyday dilemmas of economic survival versus life in a healthy environment dealt with? What are the needs, desires and qualms that people with different stakes in the global economy have? How are ideas of blame, responsibility and justice produced and connected to questions of livelihood and imaginations of the future? Knowledge about changes in the weather and climate is often fragmented and chaotic; how are different forms of knowledge made, scaled and connected to economic practices in people's daily life?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Drought, debt and claims for water justice in the Colca-Majes watershed, Peru

Author: Astrid Stensrud (University of Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

The effects of climate change intersect with the effects of neoliberal policies among small-scale farmers in Peru. This paper discusses how claims for environmental justice are made at various scales, taking into account social inequalities, power, values and different forms of water governance.

Long Abstract

Small-scale farmers and herders along the Majes-Colca watershed in southern Peru increasingly experience changes in the weather and the environment, which they interpret in terms of global climate change. Climate change mainly translates into water-related problems and seasonal instability, with adverse effects on agriculture. These effects are exacerbated by adaptations to the market economy, neoliberal deregulations, introduction of financial credit institutions, increased use of chemicals and fluctuating products prices. Drought in the Colca highlands also affects the farmers in the Majes Irrigation Project in the lowlands, who depend on the water channeled down from a dam in the poor highlands. Simultaneously, herders from the highlands demand compensation for the water that is channeled, and claim ownership to land and water rights in Majes based on ideas of justice. The new inequalities and tensions that are created locally and regionally will increase dramatically with the second phase of the irrigation project that is starting up this year, in which a private consortium will construct new infrastructure and large land areas will be sold to agribusiness companies. These developments generate fear of privatization, commodification of water and corporate dominance, and produce new uncertainties and senses of injustice. This paper will scrutinize how climate changes intersect with economic changes and how claims for justice are made. I will argue that we should look into environmental justice at various scales, taking into account economic inequalities, different positions of power, and different forms of water governance and value regimes.

The roots of 'perfect storms'. Understanding the role of globalization in Mongolian pastoralists' vulnerability to climate change

Author: Andrei Marin (Norwegian University of Life-sciences)  email

Short Abstract

The paper illustrates how the negative effects of climate change on Mongolian pastoralists are magnified by economic and political globalization and a shock-therapy transition towards global capitalism.

Long Abstract

In recent years, extreme droughts and disaster-winters have led in Mongolia to the death of millions of livestock, and to tens of thousands of herder families losing their livelihoods. Various analysts have interpreted this as evidence that the pastoralist sector in Mongolia is not sustainable, that too many subsistence herders and abundant livestock degrade pasture resources and render the whole system vulnerable. The present paper interrogates this simplistic, causal inference and shows that vulnerability to climate change has complex causes that are connected to processes of political and economic globalization, and to the comprehensive socio-economic changes that have taken place in Mongolia during the last twenty-five years. In particular, it illustrates these the very reliance of herders on the new system of global capitalism by participating in global market for cashmere (fibers from goats) makes them more vulnerable to climate change.

Thus, the current form of Mongolian capitalism acts as a shock-magnifier by connecting the shock-therapy transition from socialism to market capitalism (based on state retrenchment and market integration) to volatile terms of trade for livestock products, and herders' need to finance increased mobility. Economic (increased international trade, direct foreign investment and global financial flows) and political (de-nationalization of certain aspects of the national state, adherence to sets of regulatory structuring principles such as neoliberalism) globalization curtail therefore the ability to plan for adaptations, and create vulnerability traps.

"Campaigning for Environmental Justice - How indigenous peoples are seizing the initiative, securing their rights and challenging legal systems that have ignored their ancestral claims".

Author: Janet Boston (Perspective Film Production)  email

Short Abstract

‘Campaigning for Environmental Justice’ examines how indigenous communities from around the world – all UNDP 2015 Equator Prizewinners – are taking on global vested, regional, national and local interests in the fight to secure justice.

Long Abstract

'Campaigning for Environmental Justice - How indigenous peoples and communities from the Congo to Colombia are seizing the initiative, securing their rights and challenging legal systems that have ignored their ancestral claims.' examines how indigenous communities around the world - all winners of the prestigious 2015 UNDP Equator Prize - are taking on global vested, regional, national and local interests in the fight to secure justice.

Crucially, it draws directly on the voices of the people and the experiences of the: Dynamic Group of Indigenous People, Democratic Republic of Congo; Munduruku Ipereg Iyu Movement, Brazil; Komunitas Adat Muara Tae, Indonesia; Wuasikimas, El Modelo del Pueblo Inga En Aponte, Colombia; and the Comite Para La Defensa y Desarollo de La Flora Y Fauna Del Golfo de Fonseca, Honduras.

Using as its starting point one of a series of five films premiered at the Paris Climate Change Conference to an audience of over 1500 the paper will show how the struggles of the 2015 Equator Prize winners demonstrate that the relationship between the right to secure lands which for centuries indigenous people have safeguarded is bound up with their very survival; and how any effective strategy to protect the planet from climate change needs to recognise indigenous and local knowledge. For, these stewards of some of the world's most precious ecosystems have often been ignored, as Patrick Saidi, from DRC explains "The tropical forests are protected by indigenous groups, so their rights and culture need to be respected".

Of seismic shifts and the reclaiming of "power". Current Disputes over Fossil Fuel-based Energy Generation and Climate Change in the Philippines

Author: Elisabeth Schober (University of Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

Electricity is a fragile good in the Philippines, where government and corporations are pushing for coal as the solution to the country’s energy problems. With climate change taking a heavy toll, the political, economic and environmental dilemmas that are entangled with power generation are immense.

Long Abstract

Electricity is a fragile good in the Philippines, where governmental and corporate forces are primarily pushing for coal as the solution to the country's precarious energy situation. With climate change increasingly taking a heavy toll, the political, economic and environmental dilemmas that are entangled with electric power generation in the archipelago are immense. While average temperatures are steadily pointing upwards, substantially more energy will be needed in the Philippines in order to cope with the heat to come. Due to increased economic activities, the energy spending in the country has recently also grown substantially, with the Philippines nowadays often considered to be on the brink of "taking off". In brief, this is a country with an ever growing need for energy, while the actual supply available still proves to be both unreliable and expensive. Optimistic predictions on how rapidly the economy will grow are often used to conjure up images of an impending energy crisis that needs to be tackled head-on. These state-endorsed arguments entail a stress on how the Philippines needs to invest into improving its electricity supply now, and forget about environmental or climate change related concerns to safeguard its future. NGOs and civil society actors, on the other hand, take the opposite approach, with "climate justice" and "energy democracy" having become key terms in their repertoire over recent years. Exemplified by conflicts around coal-fueled power plants in Bataan and Zambales, this paper will look into the double-bind between economic growth and sustainability the Philippines faces today.

The moral climate of melting glaciers: Andean claims for justice at the Paris Climate Change Summit

Author: Noah Walker-Crawford (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

After filing a lawsuit against a German utility over climate damages, a Peruvian farmer came to the UN summit in Paris to demand climate justice. By introducing a moral and experiential dimension into global debates, his claim undermines the scientific and scalar foundations of climate politics.

Long Abstract

In November 2015, the Peruvian farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya filed a precedent-setting lawsuit against the German energy company RWE demanding that the firm take responsibility for its contribution to climate change and help reduce flood risk caused by melting glaciers in his Andean hometown. As his interpreter, I accompanied him in Germany and to the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris. While he received widespread resonance and support at the summit, Saúl's claim clashed with technical understandings of climate change in negotiations where experts have sought to apply scientific knowledge in the search for global solutions. Drawing on both situated knowledge of the Andean environment and transnational narratives, Saúl demands climate justice. This struggle seeks to move beyond technical debate to make climate change a moral issue of translocal relationality. Saúl aims to establish a direct link between his Andean lifeworld and RWE's CO2 emissions in Germany by holding the company legally responsible for climate disaster. This casts doubt on the scalar assumptions at the heart of scientific and UN discussions which might portray the Andean case as a minor detail of a global phenomenon. It invites us to consider how the production of scale - making climate change global - frames contemporary discourses in technical language and hinders moral claims for climate justice. A focus on how scale-making is being contested seeks to expand our understanding to encompass the multiple and entangled meanings of climate change.

Negotiating the relationship between climate change adaptation and development planning in Bangladesh. Transformative or system-maintaining?

Authors: Bob Pokrant (Curtin University)  email

Short Abstract

Bangladesh is a world leader in adopting mainstreaming and climate-compatible development policies. How is it managing the relationship between reducing local social vulnerabilities, adapting to climate change, and minimising ecological harm?

Long Abstract

Climate change (CC) is a product of historical and contemporary patterns of uneven commercial and capitalist development and most developing countries continue to follow capitalist or market-based economic policies. In an attempt to accommodate CC into development planning, several developing countries have adopted 'mainstreaming' policies (e.g. climate-compatible development, climate-resilient development and climate-friendly development) that seek to build resilient communities and raise living standards with limited or no ecological damage. This paper examines such policies in Bangladesh, with reference to other selected countries, and assesses their strengths and limitations in meeting both climate change and development objectives. It has the following aims:

1. To examine the diverse historical and pre-CC bases and causes of social and ecological vulnerability in Bangladesh;

2. To evaluate if and how current development-cum-CC policies are addressing such vulnerabilities;

3. To locate the Bangladesh example in broader academic and policy-related debates on transformative change in the relationship between CC and development planning.

The paper draws on primary and secondary multi-disciplinary research in Southwest Bangladesh and other parts of the country. Bangladesh is the chosen case study as it plays a leading global role in CC policy development.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.