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

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


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.


  • Rikard Warlenius
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


  • Environmental justice, Ecological debt, Ecologically unequal exchange, Environmental history, Ecological Marxism, Ecological economics, World system analysis
Translated title of the contributionAsymmetrier: Konceptualisering av miljöorättvisor som ekologisk skuld och ekologiskt ojämnt utbyte
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2017 Feb 10
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-7753-146-3
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7753-147-0
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 16
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2017-02-10 Time: 13.00 Place: Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Joan Martinez-Alier Title: Professor Affiliation: ICTA, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona ---

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Related research output

Warlenius, R., 2016 Oct 25, In : Journal of Political Ecology. 23, 1, p. 364-380

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Warlenius, R., 2016 May 11, Methods in World History: A critical approach. Jarrick, A., Myrdal, J. & Wallenberg Bondesson, M. (eds.). Lund: Nordic Academic Press, p. 185-225 40 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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