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Addressing Climate Change: Law, Technology and Environmental Ethics

Published April 22, 2018 by Technologies of Justice

At a pre-conference event on January 25, 2018, the Earth Systems Governance Representations of and Rights for the Environment Workgroup (ESGRREW) held a session addressing climate change, law, technology and environmental ethics. Peter Stoett, PhD, Dean, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, led the panel. This session opened talks for the next two days of the Technologies of Justice Conference, held at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.


  • Organizer: Earth Systems Governance Representations of and Rights for the Environment Workgroup (ESGRREW)
  • Host: Peter Stoett, Dean, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
  • Featuring:
    • Robert Bailey, PhD, Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
    • Daniel Hoornweg. PhD, Richard Marceau Chair, Faculty of Energy Systems and Nuclear Science, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
    • Sarah Burch, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Governance and Innovation, and Associate Professor, Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo

The panel of experts established the conversation on creating a space for open dialogue and discussion. They pressed for inclusion of Indigenous and First Nations people in environmental initiatives. Dr. Stoett explained the issues with the current United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) situation, especially that of funding in the U.S. Dr. Bailey provided an overview of environmental science and environmental studies in the past, present, and future, and how we can use technology to help solve environmental problems.
Dr. Hoornweg explained how the use of geoengineering can be an issue in environmental aspects of global warming, and how there are many scientists who see the effects of climate change becoming a problem within our lifetime. He described the rush to try and solve problems that may not exist yet, providing examples of past techniques in engineering and environmental problem-solving. He explained the effect of population boom and economy on the environment and the unequal allocation of greenhouse gas emissions, both throughout countries and within populations. He described how cities can be used as a place to make a difference and how there are times when there is no moral right to explain what to do, and when force is used to create change. He also explained how inexpensive it is to disturb or make changes to the environment, with an in-depth description and analysis on geoengineering and its uses.
Dr. Burch began her talk on transformation in ecology with indicators and evidence: the transformation imperative. With the question, "What is transformation?" she asked how transformation can be accomplished, who can participate, and how. She cited survey data and a Canadian perspective on transformation in a social and sustainable future, explaining the planetary scope of the ecology problem, and the issue of 'removing human from solution' in research. She described the shifting of socioecological and sociopolitical ideas and ideals and the effect this has on necessary or desired ecological change. She discussed the desirable effects of a positive transformation and how we can include differing voices in this definition, including the root causes of risk, high-emission pathways, the effects of capitalism on risk, risk-mitigating technology, and other issues that affect our risk factors. She pointed out the traditional and non-traditional actors and how they can influence and improve our future ideas on climate change as well as the voice of cities in international negotiations. She spoke about co-ordinating small business in stopping their greenhouse gas emissions, and how entrepreneurial ideals could help create new ideas and goals in community mitigation of greenhouse gases. She proposed solutions defined by improving reputation in the community, cutting costs as incentives and finding ways to transform urban spaces towards sustainability. She also stressed the need for intervention, and how we can scale this as well as the ideas we use to make things work, to help find and target root causes. She explained that in order to tackle both adaptation and mitigation within the transformation towards urban sustainability, ecosystem-based approaches and green infrastructure can be used; by using transformations, we can create jobs and bring people together. She showed how climate change can often be a polarizing issue because of the interpretation of evidence, and how doom and gloom can disempower and freeze people up. She suggested making indirect suggestions and incentives as a better approach to tackling issues, with inclusive narrative-based examples tending to work best to help people want to be part of the narrative of change. She expressed how art, pictures and visualization can help include and incentivize people to participate in change, by illustrating life with fewer car-based communities typically found in Canadian cities, and showing more sustainable alternatives and visions. She concluded by presenting the possibility to change the standard of urban planning to benefit sustainability and the green initiative by incorporating the various techniques and including people in their initiatives.