• This paper analytically characterizes the four main environmental sustainability
    paradigms (i.e., WS, weak sustainability; AG, a-growth; DG, de-growth; and SS, strong sustainability)
    by introducing uncertainty about future preferences for consumption and future
    technologies. SS represents an ethical approach because of its maximum aversion to intergenerational
    inequality of resources, whereas DG depicts preference changes, AG depicts
    technology changes, and WS represents the reference paradigm without accounting for
    preference or technology changes. By comparing the costs and benefits of these paradigms,
    solutions derived for the whole parameter domains based on data for a globally representative
    individual suggest that whenever environmental sustainability is pursued for welfare
    reasons within a utilitarian perspective (i.e., WS, AG, DG), it is not worth pursuing. In
    contrast, if environmental sustainability is achieved for ethical reasons within an egalitarian
    perspective (i.e., SS), it is worth pursuing, even with an increased world population. In terms
    of feasibility (i.e., whether there are realistic parameter values such that a given sustainability
    paradigm can achieve its goal), solutions are ranked ethics > preference > technology (i.e.,
    SS > DG > AG), whereas WS is unfeasible. Thus, WS, AG, and DG are inconsistent sustainability
    paradigms, SS empirically solves the theoretical dispute on absolute rights, and
    environmental sustainability must be treated as an ethical issue. A conceptual discussion
    about environmental ethics and a statistical analysis based on panel data at a country level
    support the same insights. In terms of reliability (i.e., whether there are national policies or
    international agreements which can support a feasible sustainability paradigm), SS could be
    enforced by a global environmental agreement, supported by 66/55% of governments (i.e.,
    top-down approach) and by 56/51% of citizens (i.e., bottom-up approach), in the most
    certain/uncertain scenarios, respectively.

  • Dipartimento di Scienze per la Qualità della Vita, Università di Bologna, d’Augusto 237, 47921, Rimini, Italy



    Copyright: © The Author(s) 2020

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