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Monday, 1 September 2008

The nature view held by environmentalists

I have submitted an abstract to the 2009 Copenhagen conference (March 10-12) 'Climate change: Global Risks, Challanges and Decisions', entitled 'The nature view held by environmentalists: Attitudes in the Norwegian environmental establishment'.

Abstract

Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions

Copenhagen, March 10-12, 2009

Session:

"Culture, Values and World Perspectives as Factors in Responding to Climate Change"

Morten Tønnessen

The nature view held by environmentalists

Attitudes in the Norwegian environmental establishment


The work to be presented is the outcome of a survey of partly qualitative and partly quantitative character, which was carried out in preparation of the debate book Utslippsfrie nye verden? [Pollution-free new world?].

The survey was carried out August-September 2006, with 37 respondents, made up of environmentalists, politicians, scholars and researchers and industry representatives. A total of 200 selected persons were invited to participate, all of them decision makers involved in Norwegian environmental discourse.

The questionnaire included the following open question:

- What do you have in common with all living beings?

- What is an environmental problem?

- For whom are the so-called environmental problems a problem?

- Do potential ‘environmental bombs’, left behind after humankind’s eventual extinction, concern us?

- Can the so-called environmental problems be overcome without changes in fundamental economic, technological and ideological structures?

- For how long can, will, and should the growth economy go on?

- Should the European population in 100 years be higher, lower or equal to that of today?

- To what extent does the Norwegian corporative model (where business interests as well as environmental NGOs have become an integrated part of an extended bureaucracy) make sense?

Two further tasks were of a more statistical nature.

- ranking of various energy sources (including electric power from natural gas and coal, with and without carbon capture and storage (CCS)), according to their environmental friendliness

- attribution of value to ten human/natural entities ranging from ‘individual human beings’ to ‘nature’

The respondents’ ranking of energy sources (according to ‘environmental friendliness’) seems to have reflected historically contingent ideological stands, dating back to major conflict in modern Norwegian environmental debate. One example is hydropower, which is still to some extent controversial. On coal plants and nuclear power, which has not been established in Norway, there is a near-consensus, negatively speaking. Controversies especially surround CCS-supported electric power from natural gas (a more recent, and ongoing strife), which was ranked any place from top to bottom, and appears, comparatively, to be over-rated by some while under-rated by others (in average, such energy ranked at no. 8 out of 15, that is, exactly at the middle of the ranking). While coal-fired electric plants without CCS shared the highest number of bottom-rankings with nuclear power (15 each), solar energy was superior at the top of the scale (with 20 top rankings), ahead of ocean wave energy (8 top rankings).

As for attribution of value, in all categories, more than 9 out of 10 attributed value to all or some entities belonging to all ten categories. Around 9 out of 10 attributed value to ‘all of’ ‘individual human beings’, ‘nature’ and ‘species’. At the other end of the scale, only 6 out of 10 attributed value to all ‘cultural landscapes’. Perhaps most surprisingly, only 7 out of 10 attributed value to all ‘cultures’, while 3 out of 10 attributed value only to ‘some’ cultures. Equivalently high scores for ‘some’ were only found for ‘landscapes’, ‘cultural landscapes’ and ‘individuals of other species’. On this point it was (perhaps surprisingly) more difficult to find patterns related to political/ideological stands, as most respondents were generally eager to attribute value to a whole range of human and natural entities.

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