The first substantive chapter of the thesis is about problem identification and investigation. This is not being treated as necessarily temporally prior to the next two substantive chapters (consensus formation and remedy design), but the three do seem analytically separable. Throughout the triptych, at least three themes are likely to be ever-present: the moral relevance of uncertainty, the importance of social roles, and the ways in which normative assumptions are embedded and concealed within processes.
The confluence of three other things defines the reasons for which this thesis is a novel contribution: the exploration of those themes, the combination and comparison of the two case studies, and the focus upon the contribution that international relations as a discipline can make to the subject at hand. Having those three overlapping reasons is comforting, because it means I am quite unlikely to be utterly scooped by someone else who is looking at the same problems in similar ways.
Pragmatically, it does seem like the environment is likely to be a growth area in international relations. That said, there are three major possibilities for the future overall:
- Climate change proves to be less threatening than the worst case, runaway change scenarios would suggest; other environmental problems prove manageable
- Climate change is as bad as some of the most pessimistic assessments claim, but it is uniquely threatening among environmental problems
- For whatever reason (population growth, economic growth, technological progress, etc) additional problems of the climate change magnitude will arise
If I had to put my money on one of those options, it would be the second. I can see human behaviour causing all manner of specific problems, both localized or confined to particular species or elements of the environment. It is hard to see another human activity (aside from the danger of nuclear war) that threatens the possibility of human society continuing along a path of technological and economic evolution, during the next three to five hundred years.