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Conditions of ‘Sustainability’: The Case of Climate Change Adaptation in Sweden
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies (from 2013).
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

By describing climate change as one of the greatest challenges of our time, the Swedish government has expressed a commitment to climate change adaptation as an integral part of the country’s sustainable development efforts. Sweden has also been portrayed as a frontrunner of climate policy and sustainable development. However, research and rankings describe even the ‘good example’ of Sweden as unsustainable, including its responses to climate change. Transformation is needed.

Based on the ‘what’s the problem represented to be?’ (WPR) approach, this thesis describes and problematizes conditions of ‘sustainability’ constituted through problem representations of governing climate change adaptation in Sweden. In addition, the study provides a discussion of alternative problem representations constituting conditions with new possibilities for transformation.

The empirical material for the analysis of current conditions in Sweden consists of policy documents as well as interviews with municipal and regional experts involved in promoting and implementing adaptation. I also analyze conditions constituted through problem representations in research. These are used as points of comparison for the problematization of conditions in Sweden.

My conclusions are that the current conditions of ‘sustainability’, constituted through the problem representations in Sweden, create a focus on advancing functional governance of adaptation as well as a focus on reducing marginalization of neglected sustainability concerns by integrating them with the current order of things. Problematizations of domination are largely absent. I argue that possibilities for transformation could be advanced by problematizing domination. Through problematizations of the current decentralization of responsibility, the integration imperative, and the primacy of economic growth over environmental and social dimensions of sustainability, I suggest ways in which this type of problematization could be facilitated.

Abstract [en]

The climate is changing. This poses severe risks to humans, societies, and ecosystems on which human well-being depends. Sweden is one of the countries described as a frontrunner in meeting the challenges of climate change. In addition to reducing human influence on the climate, these challenges also include climate change adaptation. However, even Sweden’s responses to these challenges are described as deficient in both rankings and research. Considering the cataclysmic risks posed by climate change, transformation is needed.

In this thesis, I focus on current conditions of ‘sustainability’ in governing climate change adaptation in Sweden. I illustrate their limitations and possibilities in facilitating transformation and argue that conditions with new possibilities are needed. I also suggest ways to promote such transformative conditions. My research contribution forms part of a broader discussion of how ‘sustainability’ currently is constructed and how different possibilities for transformation could be attained, both in Sweden and elsewhere.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2018. , p. 260
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2018:16
Keywords [en]
climate change adaptation, resilience, vulnerability, sustainability, transformation, governing, policy analysis, Bacchi, WPR, discourse analysis, governmentality, political ecology, climate justice, phronesis, climate change, environmental politics, sustainable development
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-66969ISBN: 978-91-7063-847-3 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7063-942-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-66969DiVA, id: diva2:1197085
Public defence
2018-06-01, 9C 203, Nyquistsalen, Universitetsgatan 2, Karlstad, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-05-11 Created: 2018-04-11 Last updated: 2018-05-11Bibliographically approved

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Olsson, David

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