Research


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I am an Associate Professor (with National Habilitation as Full Professor) in Political Geography in the Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milan-Bicocca. I am UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) GEO (Global Environment Outlook) expert (Lead Author in the Climate section of the Regional Assessment for the Pan-European Region Europe; and member of Working Group 3 (WG3 – Development, Health and Human Security) of MedECC (Mediterranean Expert Network on Climate and Environmental Change). I am member of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs working group on the International Seabed Authority (ISA) under the UNCLOS: my contribute is on deep-seabed governance. I am member of the Editorial Board of the journal Palgrave Communications, in the subject Environmental Studies.

My research interests include – broadly understood – i) international climate change policy and politics, ii) adaptation and social vulnerability to climate change, and human security. Here is a short CV (a full CV can be provided upon request).

i) International climate change policy and politics
A first strand of research investigates the political theory of climate change. The article ‘Climate ethics: with a little help from moral cognitive neuroscience‘ focuses on the insights that moral cognitive neuroscience offers to climate ethics and proposes a consequentialist approach to the climate crisis. The development of this argument (the article ‘Consequentialist climate ethics‘) was presented  at  a workshop on Distributive Justice and Sustainability (London, LSE, 11 November 2011). Based on this paper I am working on a piece titled  ‘A combined approach to climate change and poverty’. A further development regards the analysis of climate-related harm according to psychology and cognitive science: the article (Sacchi, S., Riva, P., Brambilla, M. and Grasso M., Journal of Environmental Psychology) ‘Moral reasoning and climate change mitigation: The deontological reaction toward the market-based approach’,  is focused on this issue. In a different perspective, the article ‘Sharing the emission budget’ examines the distribution of the emission budget (pun intended). The article ‘Implicazioni dell’approccio del budget delle emissioni per le politiche internazionali contro i cambiamenti climatici’ closely scrutinizes the policy implications of the distribution of the emission budget.
I organized, with Ezra M. Markowitz the workshop ‘Multidisciplinary perspective on climate ethics‘ and I am co-editing the related Special Issue (published by the journal Climatic Change, Volume 130, Issue 3, June 2015). I contributed two pieces to this Special Issue: i) ‘The moral complexity of climate change and the need for a multidisciplinary perspective on climate ethics’ (with Markowitz, E. M.), and ii) ‘Climate ethics at a multidisciplinary crossroads: Four directions for future scholarship’ (with Markowitz, E. M., Jamieson, D.).

A second line of research investigates the ethical dimensions of governance systems for comprehensively dealing with climate change. The article ‘A normative ethical framework in climate change’ identifies a pluralistic normative ethical framework for climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. The article ‘An ethics-based climate agreement in the South Pacific region’ describes a comprehensive regional climate agreement for such region. My work also explores the governance systems of adaptation to climate change. The article ‘The role of justice in the North-South conflict in climate change: the case of negotiations on the Adaptation Fund’ investigates the role that ethical arguments have played in negotiations on the Adaptation Fund. The article ‘An ethical approach to climate adaptation finance’ develops a framework of procedural and distributive justice specifically tailored to the international-level funding of adaptation. The book, ‘Justice in funding adaptation under the international climate change regime‘ investigates the ethical dimensions of the international-level funding of adaptation. The Journal Analyse & Kritik has published an article on justice of the instruments for adaptation finance titled ‘Just Instruments for Adaptation Finance‘.

On a more policy-oriented ground, I published with J. Timmons Roberts a Global View Policy Paper for the Brookings Institution – Global Economy and Development program, titled ‘A Fair Compromise to Break the Climate Impasse‘ (Blog Post, Video Interview), that proposes a morally-grounded compromise for moving forward negotiations on emissions reductions. A final version, titled ‘A compromise to break the climate impasse‘, was published in Nature Climate Change.

My research also scrutinizes procedural justice. The working paper ‘Procedural justice in international negotiations on climate change’ (CISEPS Research Paper No. 6-2011, written with Simona Sacchi) aims to define a notion of procedural justice suitable for climate negotiations. A revised version, titled ‘Impure procedural justice in climate governance systems‘  is published in Environmental Values. It analyzes and applies a particular version of procedural justice to climate governance systems.

A further area of investigation on climate governance systems relates to consumption-based carbon accounting. In this regard I am currently working on the international politics of consumption-based accounting and on the dynamics of power among countries and regions caused by such accounting basis and on its political feasibility. On this latter issue I published a paper in the journal New Political Economy: The political feasibility of consumption-based carbon accounting, and one in the journal Geoforum (Achieving the Paris goals: Consumption-based carbon accounting).

I am currently investigating the role and responsibility of the oil and gas industry in relation to climate change. The overall objective of my research in this area is to develop a framework able to accommodate the special position of oil and gas companies – given their contributions in terms of carbon emissions and denial funding – in the global efforts against climate change. To this end, the research first justifies the attribution of  duties to oil and gas companies and then discusses the implications of such duties in global climate policy. This normative part of the research investigates oil and gas companies’ duty of decarbonization and of disgorgement. The duty of decarbonization implies a broad ethical commitment of oil and gas companies to sustainability, which would ultimately lead to reduction and eventual elimination of their fossil fuel-related processes. The duty of reparation requires that oil and gas companies relinquish financial resources in the form of payment to the victims of climate change for the wrongly appropriated benefits related to their activity. The research then analyses policy relevant implications generated by oil and gas companies’ moral duties. It basically discusses the key obstacles on the way of justice that are impeding the process of including oil and gas companies into the global efforts of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and proposes possible policy measures for addressing such problems.
On this topic I published a journal article (‘Oily politics: A critical assessment of the oil and gas industry’s contribution to climate change’, in Energy Research & Social Science, a journalistic overview (in Italian) of this paper can be found here) and a book chapter (‘Big Oil’s duty of disgorging funds in the context of climate change’, in T. Jafry (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook on Climate Justice. Routledge, Abingdon. I have a further paper – with K. Vladimirova, second author – forthcoming in the journal Environmental Values titled ‘A moral analysis of carbon majors’ role in climate change’. The main objective of this paper is to fill the gap in the literature and to facilitate and ignite the discussion about the moral role of ‘carbon majors’ in the global climate governance. It explores major carbon producers’ duties of decarbonising their business and of financial rectification of harm done and some crucial challenges that they imply. Additionally, I have a paper forthcoming in Energy Research & Social Science titled ‘Additionally, I have a paper in Energy Research & Social Science titled ‘Towards a broader climate ethics: Confronting the oil industry with morally relevant facts‘ which analyses the morally relevant facts that specify and justify oil and gas companies’ moral responsibility for climate change.
In this connection I am writing a monograph book titled (provisionally) ‘Big Oil and Climate Change. The Leopard Must Change Its Spots‘: it will be published in 2020.
I am editing a Special Issue of the journal Sustainability titled ‘The Oil and Gas Industry and Climate Change: Role and Implications‘; the deadline for submission of papers is 30 June 2020 and the call for papers can be found here.

I am also working on the international  governance of solar geoengineering (or solar radiation modification). I’ve recently published an article in the journal Global Policy titled ‘Sulfur in the sky with diamonds: An inquiry into the feasibility of solar geoengineering‘. I am currently working on a paper on legitimacy and procedural justice in solar geoengineering governance. I also wrote a general article (in Italian) on geoengineering for a magazine, Pagina99.

ii) Adaptation and social vulnerability to climate change, and human security
Social vulnerability to climate change
is mostly explored in relation to adaptation and adaptive capacity. The articles ‘Mediterranean agriculture under climate change: adaptive capacity, adaptation, and ethics (Appendix)’ and ‘A regional governance system for adaptation to climate change in the Mediterranean region’ (in preparation) explore such aspects in the Mediterranean countries. The article, written with M. Moneo and M. Arena, ‘Assessing social vulnerability to climate change in Samoa‘ (Regional Environmental Change) measures social vulnerability to climate change in Samoa and the South Pacific Islands through a specifically designed index.

In relation to human security I co-edited, with M.R. Redclift, the ‘Handbook on climate change and human security‘, and contributed, with M.R. Redclift, the Introduction ‘Introduction: human security in the age of carbon’, and, with G. Feola, a chapter, ‘Human security and climate change in the Mediterranean region’.

I worked in the EU funded project IMPRESSIONS, which “aims to advance understanding of the implications of high-end climate change, involving temperature increases above 2° C, and to help decision-makers apply such knowledge within integrated adaptation and mitigation strategies”. Besides reports and policy publication, I coauthored the paper in the journal Regional Environmental ChangeDefining transformative climate science to address high-end climate change‘, and the paper published by the journal Sustainability  ‘Towards a Moral Compass to Guide Sustainability Transformations in a High-End Climate Change World‘.

iii) Other areas of research
I work also on marine policy. In particular, I am studying the governance and the features of institutions managing the deep seabed, a global commons.

I worked on the multidimensional analysis of well-being. This, however, proved to be an awkward topic for me. I used to firmly believe in the fallacy of GDP as a measure of well-being. Yet, to cut a long story short, I now instead believe that GDP is a good measure of the quality of life, at least in the industrialized countries, as the article ‘An assessment of the quality of life in the European Union’ shows. I am no longer interested in these themes.

Evaluation of my work
This is the evaluation (in Italian) of my research activity carried out by the 2004-2010 research assessment (VQR 2004-2010) of the Italian Ministry of Education, University, Research (Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca – MIUR). In the last VQR (2011-2014) – released in 2017 – I obtained twoexcellent (the highest) for the two articles considered.

On a slightly different ground, here’s a story (mine) about the Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale for the position of ‘full professor’. I didn’t get it: here are the motivations for that. This is instead an article on this disheartening story. This story eventually ended up well: I’ve recently got the Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale as ‘full professor’.

©2011-2019 Marco Grasso. All rights reserved.