This is the concluding part of the wicked trinity series. In this post I would try to provide an exposition on the underlying normative paradigms of the problem of wicked trinity. These paradigms I consider lies at the heart of the wicked trinity.

From part I through to part IV of this series I explored the three dimensions of the wicked trinity:

-The 2 oC global warming target set in the Paris Agreement

-The carbon majors which played a major role in contributing to the anthropogenic climate change and currently owns majority of the fossil fuel assets

-The consequences of stranding of the fossil fuel assets to meet the estimated global carbon budget corresponding to the 2 oC global warming scenario.

In my last post I mentioned the wickedness of the trinity stems due to the existence of competing ideas of justice and equity. For example, one can argue that it is legitimate to strand the fossil fuel assets of carbon majors who are historically responsible for playing the major role in anthropogenic climate change. However considering that anthropogenic nature of climate change is a recent discovery, it may be questioned, if carbon majors can be blamed for a harm that they were not aware of causing. Hence it can be seen that such competing views of justice make the blameworthiness of the carbon majors questionable. This leads to further complications such as if not the carbon majors then who should bear the responsibilities for and consequences of the stranding of the fossil fuel assets?  The notion of distributive justice may provide some answers.  The distributive justice attempts towards an equitable distribution of future harms as well as future benefits [1]. For climate change GHG emission is a public good. It contributes to global warming but at the same time anthropogenic sources of GHG emissions (such as industrial facilities producing power, steel, cement, chemicals) contributes to the wellbeing of people. In a post Paris Agreement carbon constrained world GHG emission is set to become a scarce public commodity.  Under this scenario, principles of distributive justice demands adoption of a globally fair and equitable distribution mechanism of GHG emissions rights. However the challenges with distributive justice would be to justify prioritisation of the distribution of one public good over the other. For example stranding of fossil fuel assets may impinge upon the poverty reduction objectives of some countries. It may also hinder aspirations of millennials living in lower income countries to acquire similar living standards as compared to their counterparts in the developed countries.

The above paragraph provides only some glimpses into the fundamental sources of wickedness of the trinity described in this series of posts. As can be seen they are all normative in nature and thus are difficult to justify one above the other.

I hope this five part series have given the reader some idea about the complexities of dealing with the complex socio-economic problems which as Rittel & Weber (1973) posits are almost always wicked in nature.  The goal of these posts was not to provide any solution to the wicked trinity but is attempted towards bringing forth the sources of wickedness for the public good problems. Climate change has been used as a case study as it is becoming one of the most challenging problem of global commons of our time.

[1] Gardiner, S. M. (2011). A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Photo: Taken on January 23, 2013 and published in flickr by Antonio Vantaggiato under Creative Common License CC BY -NC – SA 2.0.

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