Conference Program

Calgary Sustainability Conference 2015 Program

Friday, June 12th

All sessions save the keynote in Social Science room 109

8:30-9:00 Opening remarks

9:00- 10:00 Jennifer Szende, Universite de Montreal

Climate Justice and Territorial Rights

Abstract: According to standard understandings of territorial rights, the rising sea levels predicted by climate change will undermine territorial rights. However, Margaret Moore and Avery Kolers recent work on territorial rights implies that they ought to be understood in a relational and place-specific way. If so, territorial rights would still be violated by rising sea levels, but they would also be violated by several of the other changes predicted by climate change. This paper argues that territorial rights ought to be understood as relational, and that this will have a profound implication for our understanding of the injustice of climate change.

10:15-11:15 Veronica de la Rosa Jaimes, University of Calgary

The Athabaskan Petition: Where Accelerated Arctic Warming Meets Human Rights

Abstract: The rapid pace of climate change in the Arctic is disproportionately impacting indigenous peoples living there. A petition filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in April 2013, on behalf of the Arctic Athabaskan Peoples of Canada and the United States, claims that Canada’s lack of effective – and in some cases non-existent – regulations for black carbon emissions are accelerating Arctic warming and that this failure violates their human rights. The paper explores the nature of this petition and considers three human rights: the right to enjoy the benefits of the culture; the right to property, and the right to the preservation of health and well-being. It examines the dimensions of obligations that regional and international supervisory bodies have applied to the rights protecting indigenous communities from environmental damage. The paper then discusses the ability of the petition to address a problem embedded with the interaction of climate change, indigenous peoples and human rights violations, and explores the main challenges that the petition will confront before the Commission. The paper concludes with reflections on the extent to which the Athabaskan Petition will set the course of future progress in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, and the reasons why the Commission is well equipped to interpret the American Declaration in light of broader developments in international human rights, giving the Inter American Human Rights System the opportunity to open the door to a bold and ambitious call for environmental protection of the Arctic.

11:30-12:30 James Coleman, University of Calgary

Are We Responsible for Carbon Emissions Overseas and If So, What Should We Do About It?

Abstract: Environmental groups looking to slow greenhouse gas emissions are looking for any weak link in fossil fuel supply chains: challenging extraction projects, pipeline proposals, shipping facilities, and even shipments of heavy equipment necessary for these projects. The hope is that, even if these groups have little influence in the places where fossil fuels are ultimately burned in power plants and cars, they can make these fuels more costly by choking off supply points, lowering emissions at the end of these global supply chains. On the flip-side, industries in countries that are pursuing climate policies are lobbying governments to adopt carbon tariffs for imported goods that penalize goods from countries where carbon emissions are unrestrained. (Some states, including California, have already adopted regulations that effectively apply carbon tariffs to imports of oil and electricity.) What both of these movements have in common is that they, in effect, take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions overseas, and seek to reduce them. These efforts present both theoretical and pragmatic problems. Is it appropriate for a nation to take responsibility for emissions that occur elsewhere because they are enabled by its decision to export fuels or import finished products? If so, is it legitimate for countries to impose their emissions’ preferences on other parties through trade rather than negotiation? In practice, is it possible to target supply chain interventions so that they reduce emissions overseas without provoking destructive trade wars? This paper presents a nuanced answer to these questions, affirming that such regulation may be appropriate but arguing that it must be carefully circumscribed to avoid provoking international conflict.

12:30-1:30 Lunch – Arts Lounge – Social Science lobby

1:30-2:30 Jen Welchman, University of Alberta

What Should Environmental Stewards Steward?

2:45-4:30 Andrew Light, George Mason University, U.S. Department of State and David Keith, Harvard University

Panel Discussion on Climate Policy

5:00-7:00 Keynote Presentation In Science Theatres room 147

Andrew Light, George Mason University

“Climate Change, Sustainability, and the Debate over the Post 2015 Development Agenda” ‐

Saturday, June 13th

9:00-10:00 Corey Katz, St Louis University

Does the current generation dominate future generations?

Abstract: Empirical research suggests that a number of traditional methods of industrial production affect the natural environment in ways that can degrade goods, close off options or increase the risk of harm for many generations into the future. Given this, we must reflect on what our moral duties to future generations are given the particular nature of our relation to them. For example, Brian Barry, Robert Goodin and Stephen Gardiner have argued that the relation between the current generation and posterity is different than that between (adult) contemporaries. First, given the “arrow of time” and the current nonexistence of future generations, they argue that the current generation has a much greater ability to affect posterity than posterity has to affect the current generation. Second, posterity is highly dependent for help or harm on the current generation. Third, the costs we pass on to posterity could be such as to affect not just their level of wealth or resources but their basic lifechances in a more fundamental way. The basic lifechances of the current generation have very little to do with the actions of posterity in the future. In short, these theorists argue that there is a very large power asymmetry between the current generation and posterity that has theoretical relevance for thinking about justice to future generations. Recently, John Nolt, Patrick Taylor Smith and James Bohman have further suggested that this asymmetry can or does create a relation of domination between the current generation and posterity. Specifically, they claim that the definition of domination used by neorepublicans like Philip Pettit and Frank Lovett is met by the relation between the current generation and posterity. Broadly, neorepublicans argue that a relation of domination holds between an agent and a subject when the agent has unequal arbitrary power over the subject. Neorepublicans argue that there is a strong reason to minimize relations of domination or assure “nondomination.” In that case, we would have a strong reason to assure the nondomination of posterity. This is a recent and little explored topic so my overall aim in this paper is simply to test the idea that the neorepublican definition of domination can be easily extended to apply to the relation between the current generation and posterity.

10:15-11:15 John Nolt, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Domination across Space and Time:Smallpox, Special Relativity and Climate Ethics

Abstract: This paper contends that present people are dominating distant future via the medium of greenhouse gas emissions. The argument proceeds in four stages. First, using the historical example of the smallpox epidemic brought upon the indigenous people of what is now the southeastern U.S by the expedition of the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto, I argue that unintentional domination may extend in space far beyond the location of the dominators. The argument appeals to conceptions of domination developed in moral and political theory and in Jared Diamond’s 1997 classic, Guns, Germs and Steel. Second, I trace the parallels between this historical domination over vast reaches of space and our domination of future people over vast stretches of time via greenhouse gas emissions. Third, I argue that objections to this comparison based on differences between temporal and spatial separation are undercut by the insight, due to Einstein and Minkowski, that space and time are perspective-relative aspects of a unified spacetime. Fourth, I contend that this well-confirmed physical understanding of space and time is an appropriate conceptual framework for long-term intergenerational ethics.

11:30-12:30 Benjamin Hale, University of Colorado

A Puzzle for Sustainability

Abstract: Call it the Specificity Puzzle. Suppose two kinds of resources: renewable and non-renewable.

Renewable resources can be replenished. Non-renewable resources cannot be replenished.

Sustainability is generally presumed to obtain to the former but not to the latter. Unfortunately, things are not as they seem. For every renewable resource there are particularized aspects of that resource— regarding identity, size, shape, appearance, date of consumption, relation to other resources, etc.—that are non-renewable. For every non-renewable resource there are generalized aspects of that resource— regarding substitutability, reproducibility, fungibility, instrumental value, etc.—that are renewable. The Specificity Puzzle challenges the distinction between renewable and non-renewable resources by demonstrating that without a specific conception of the good, there is no clear demarcation between the two kinds of resources. In other words, the good of sustainability must be specified in order for the idea of sustainability to do the work that it sometimes assumed to do.

12:30-2:00 Lunch – Food court in MacEwan Hall

2:00-3:00 Katie McShane, Colorado State University –

“Climate Change and the Place of Non-Economic Values in Conceptions of Sustainability”

Abstract: In the 28 years since the Brundtland report, many different conceptions of sustainability have been formulated, reflecting different answers to the question “What are we trying to sustain?” I argue that noneconomic values have not been adequately represented within the most prominent conceptions of sustainability found in corporate and public policy arenas. Anthropocentric values have been captured quite poorly, and nonanthropocentric values have been ignored altogether. Further, I argue that the ecological and economic perturbations caused by climate change are likely to make this problem even worse: assessments that focus on material throughputs and market values are likely to be even poorer proxies for the goods we hope to secure through sustainability. Rather than focusing narrowly on what we know how to measure, we would do well to revisit questions about the ultimate value of sustainability – what makes it a goal worth aiming for – and consider which features of the world are important to the achievement of that goal.

3:00-4:00 Kent A. Peacock, University of Lethbridge

Sustainability: What It Would Take

Abstract: As the icecaps melt and biodiversity melts away it may seem almost fatuously optimistic to speak of sustainability, let alone sustainable development. The latter phrase is indeed oxymoronic, if “development” means anything like “business as usual”. There is no question that humanity is in for a very rough ride in the decades to come. However, I will argue that there are grounds for judiciously tempered optimism so long as we grasp that sustainability can be understood in terms of the biophysics of symbiosis, and that humans, with their unique neurological capacities, are potentially capable of contributing to such a planetary-scale symbiotic state in constructive ways. I will explain how this could follow from a general understanding of symbiosis from an evolutionary point of view, and sketch some of the requisites, physical, technological, and ethical, for such a hopeful transformation.

4:15-5:15 Tyler DeRoches, University of British Columbia

Critical Natural Capital and the Social Scientific Approach to Sustainable Development

Abstract: This paper unmasks the concept of critical natural capital by introducing a completely new theory of what are termed “basic ecological goods” (BEGs). It will be shown that BEGs are distinct from ordinary goods in consumer choice theory since the former are objective ecological conditions that must be met for an agent to exist while the latter merely yield utility to agents. Why are BEGs required for the continued existence of a given agent? These goods possess objective causal properties that are essential for this purpose. Although BEGs have no actual substitutes, it is argued that for any good to potentially supplant a BEG it would have to play the same life-sustaining causal role and leave the agent no worse off. We will see that this double-requirement is different from the substitution of ordinary goods in consumer choice theory which only require that the agent is made equally well off when one good is supplanted for another.

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