Visit by Sonja Klinsky

Had a nice visit with my former Masters, Sonja Klinsky, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Economics and Politics, University of Cambridge, UK. Her research talk @ McGill:

Vinaigrette or Oil and Vinegar? Comparing Public Rationales for Justice in Mitigation and Adaptation Climate Policy Dilemmas

The ideal relationship between climate change adaptation and mitigation policy has been long debated. Are they substitutes for each other, in which case the policy task is to find the optimal trade-off between the two, or can they be integrated to take advantage of win-win overlaps?

Instead of proposing how these policies should relate to one another from an abstract policy perspective, this study examines public rationales about justice and burden-sharing in each case. What arguments about justice resonate from a mitigation perspective, which ones are dominant from an adaptation perspective, and what might this suggest about the contours of politically acceptable climate policy?

Using think-aloud protocols and a structured elicitation approach with members of the lay public, this study provides evidence that the two types of climate policy trigger different sets of arguments about justice. When asked about mitigation burden-sharing participants overwhelmingly depending on arguments about causality. In contrast, in discussions of adaptation participants emphasized ideas of need and ability, and used social and spatial distance to modify the allocation of responsibility. Two considerations emerge from these findings.

First, the public is able to engage with the justice dilemmas of climate policy, suggesting that predictions of political palatability or public responses need to consider these concerns. Second, it is important to recognize that support for adaptation and mitigation policies stem from different arguments. This could make transition between mitigation and adaptation potentially much more difficult, especially if treated as complete substitutes.