Clouding Skies - Digital approaches to 'Loss and Damage' associated with climate change, and the algorithmization of injustice in a warming world

Authors: Giovanni Bettini*, Lancaster University, Giovanna Gioli, University of Edinburgh
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: climate change; loss and damage; algorithms; climate justice; digital; disasters
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As the prospect of dangerous climate change becomes more and more likely (IPCC 2018), a vast consensus exists over the importance of addressing losses and damage (L&D) residual to mitigation (i.e. preventing climate change) and adaptation (i.e. adjusting in order to avert adverse impacts). In spite of sharp divisions on how to understand and operationalise L&D (Boyd et al 2018, Calliari 2016), most approaches draw on classic environmental governance, with discrete analogic interventions implemented by States and international actors. By and large, L&D is envisioned as being staged in an imagined ‘international court of climate justice’ that identifies the culprits (emitters), quantifies harm and compensates victims. Notably, substantive discussion on the use of Information and Communication Technologies, algorithms, user-generated data and distributed technologies in the L&D sub-field is conspicuous by its absence, despite the growing popularity of digital technologies and data in many germane policy fields - and in virtually all economic sectors. By taking seriously the prospect of a ‘digitalization’ of L&D, this paper identifies the seeds of emerging digitalized approaches to L&D through an overview of empirical examples in three key domains associated with L&D – insurance, disaster displacement, and disaster risk reduction and responses. The empirical cases are used to investigate the modes of governance that accompany the digital tools through which L&D could be implemented, and critically interrogates the profound changes in the conceptualisation of justice that would accompany a digitalization / algorithmization of L&D and climate change more in general.

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