The Sustainable Development Oxymoron: Quantifying and Modelling the Incompatibility of Sustainable Development Goals

24 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2016

See all articles by Viktoria Spaiser

Viktoria Spaiser

University of Leeds

Shyam Ranganathan

Virginia Tech

Ranjula Bali Swain

Uppsala University

David Sumpter

Uppsala University - Department of Mathematics

Date Written: April 19, 2016

Abstract

In 2015, the UN adopted a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty, establish socio-economic inclusion and protect the environment. Critical voices such as the International Council for Science, however, have expressed concerns about potential incompatibility of the SDGs, specifically the incompatibility of socio-economic development and environmental sustainability. In this paper we test, quantify and model the alleged inconsistency of SDGs. Our analyses show which SDGs are consistent and which conflicting. We measure the extent of inconsistency and conclude that the SDG agenda will fail as a whole if we continue with business as usual. We further explore the nature of the inconsistencies using dynamical systems models, which reveal that the focus on economic growth and consumption as a means for development underlies the inconsistency. Our models also show that there are factors which can contribute to development (health programs, government investment) on the one hand and ecological sustainability (renewable energy) on the other, without triggering the conflict between incompatible SDGs.

Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable development incompatibility, dynamical systems modeling, factor analysis, feature selection, UN data revolution

JEL Classification: C6, O11, O57

Suggested Citation

Spaiser, Viktoria and Ranganathan, Shyam and Swain, Ranjula Bali and Sumpter, David, The Sustainable Development Oxymoron: Quantifying and Modelling the Incompatibility of Sustainable Development Goals (April 19, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2766875 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2766875

Viktoria Spaiser (Contact Author)

University of Leeds ( email )

Social Science Building
Woodhouse Lane
Leeds, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom
0044 7470 122518 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.viktoriaspaiser.com

Shyam Ranganathan

Virginia Tech ( email )

VA
United States

Ranjula Bali Swain

Uppsala University ( email )

Box 513
Uppsala, 751 20
Sweden

David Sumpter

Uppsala University - Department of Mathematics ( email )

Ångströmlaboratoriet
Lägerhyddsvägen 1
Uppsala, 75106
Sweden

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