Missing Paths to Justice: The Knowledge Politics of Carbon Dioxide Removal

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) has become a central component in the climate change mitigation scenarios assessed by the IPCC. These scenarios rely on the large-scale deployment of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and Afforestation to keep global average temperatures below 2°C of warming, despite substantial concerns about their feasibility, scalability, and unwanted impacts.
In this thesis, I provide a critical examination of policy-relevant knowledge production and its effects, by scrutinizing CDR as the most recent manifestation of the politics of knowledge in climate change mitigation research. I do this through an in-depth analysis of some of the core assumptions in the production of mitigation pathways through Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) and their socio-ecological, political, and material effects on the ground. In the analytical approach of this study, I integrate insights from Science and Technology Studies, Political Ecology, and Justice debates. Specifically, I draw upon debates on knowledge co-production to investigate the emergence, mobilization, and transformation of visions of carbon removal and the ways in which they influence action in the present. From a justice perspective, I pay particular attention to some of the Global North – Global South dynamics and materialities assumed in this science-for-policy space and the visions of the future it generates.
First, drawing on a literature review I analyse the ways in which justice concerns are subsumed or disregarded in the integrated assessment modelling of climate change. This justice angle allows me to make the politics of knowledge in climate change mitigation models visible, and to contextualize the emergence of CDR in mitigation scenarios and pathways. Based on findings from this review, I empirically explore how emerging visions of the future in global modelled scenarios and pathways get translated and negotiated into actionable imaginaries and policies which in turn have effects on the ground. I do this by examining the effects of these visions for two components of BECCS: land use change and carbon capture and storage.
My findings show that model-based policy-relevant research often overlooks the power dynamics and materialities embedded in both the practical process and underlying assumptions of knowledge production. This oversight can result in fundamentally unjust outcomes and policy recommendations. My results underscore the imperative to first, recognize the political nature of doing research for policy and second, to explore alternative ways of imagining more just and equitable futures.
Translated title of the contributionSaknade vägar till rättvisa: Koldioxidinfångningens kunskapspolitik
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
  • Carton, Wim, Supervisor
  • Islar, Mine, Assistant supervisor
Award date2024 Jun 7
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-8104-000-5
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-8104-001-2
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Apr

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2024-06-07
Time: 10:00
Place: Ostrom, Josefson, Biskopsgatan 5, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Lövbrand, Eva
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Linköping University

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Carbon dioxide removal (CDR)
  • Justice
  • Equity


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