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Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions

Copenhagen, March 10-12, 2009

"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
- 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
- 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.