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Imagination as a tool for climate action: towards preparedness in the Swedish water sector

The world is currently on a trajectory towards a +3 C warming compared to pre-industrial levels and we are already affected through floods, drought, and water quality deterioration.

AI-generated image of extreme weather events. Prompt by David Nilsson

About the project

The Swedish water sector needs transformation to meet the rapidly changing climate, but despite overwhelming evidence, adaptation is currently not happening fast enough.

We argue that the problem we are facing is not primarily about lack of knowledge. The problem is lack of imagination. A critical clue to make climate-related transformation happen is to critically review and revamp our "imaginaries": our ideas about how the world ought to be.

Our objective is to determine what kind of socio-technical imaginaries that can speed up climate action in the Swedish water and sewerage sector. We will investigate the following research questions:

  1. When water sector actors take climate action, what are their underlying narratives about the future of water infrastructure?
  2. How does climate science and the lived historical experience of extreme weather (e.g. floods and droughts) inform these narratives?
  3. What are the actual mechanisms at play when imaginaries drive climate action (e.g. political directives, technical standards, budget allocations)?

We approach these questions from the field of the social sciences and the humanities and focus on water and sewerage utilities in Sweden that have already started to take climate action. Throughout we have a close interaction with sector actors to make a lasting effect.

Project leader: David Nilsson

Project period: 2024-2026

Financing: Formas

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Last changed: Jan 12, 2024