Asymmetries : Conceptualizing Environmental Inequalities as Ecological Debt and Ecologically Unequal Exchange

Abstract: In this compilation thesis, consisting of six papers and an introductory chapter, the concepts of ecological debt, climate debt, ecologically unequal exchange, and unequal carbon sink appropriation are at the centre. Their intellectual and political histories are traced to environmental justice movements, ecological economics and neo-Marxist economics. They are developed conceptually and linked together analytically using a stock-flow perspective. Special concern is devoted to climate debt as understood by the climate justice movement. Its claims on climate debt are identified, their normative assumptions tested and climate debt is quantified as consisting of both an emission debt and an adaptation debt. The last paper focus on a historical case study, where a method for measuring ecologically unequal exchange – time-space appropriation – is applied to discuss core and peripheries in the early modern world system, indicating a Sinocentric world economy. In the introductory chapter, sections on critical realism and mixed methods research position the thesis theoretically and methodologically. The concepts at the centre of the thesis are synthesized into what is called an ecological-economic asymmetries approach. Further, the possibilities to base the approach on ecological Marxism and historical-geographical materialism are explored and a potential future research strategy sketched.