Social movements move and grow by autopoesis—by calling their prospective ranks to order using public pronouncements replete with consequential assumptions about the world as they see it. In the same way, governing bodies and vested economic interests stake out opposing public positions. In the wake of the crucial international climate negotiations in Paris, December 2015, at which the nations adopted the first truly universal climate treaty, we look back over five years of participatory ethnographic research inside the UN climate talks and the social movements for climate justice, identifying key lifeworld assumptions inscribed in the public position-taking of central economic, public, and political sphere actors. Our findings include grounds for skepticism that UN climate policy can transcend the power of the fossil fuel companies to attenuate both international ambitions and national contributions to the universal effort, but also an exciting possibility that climate justice philosophy and tactics, aided by bold counter-spectacle techniques from the Occupy movement, might return to the stage in the coming years and lead the necessary deep culture shift that decarbonization will require.
Richard Widick and John Foran
A Framework for Ethnographic Research on the Perceptions of Climate Change
Sophie Elixhauser, Stefan Böschen and Katrin Vogel
Ethnographers studying the local dimensions of climate change find themselves confronted with a methodological problem: climate change is both an abstract concept and a locally present phenomenon, yet it does not emerge from lived experience. We tackle this problem by means of a research framework that combines discussions on place and Tim Ingold’s (2011) idea of a meshwork. This article is based on research on climate change perceptions in two Alpine communities, located in Bavaria (Germany) and South Tyrol (Italy), respectively. We show how a focus on climate knots and their meshworks allows the grasping, describing, and visualizing of the different dimensions of climate change in these two local settings. This framework, as we further show, helps to reveal social and cultural patterns and underlying structures.
William T. van Markham and C.S.A. (Kris) Koppen
This article investigates the messages about climate change that ten nature protection organizations in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States communicate to their members and the public through their Internet sites, member magazines, and annual reports. Based on analysis of this content, we conclude that all the organizations address climate change, but to varying extents and in differing ways. All of the organizations note that climate change is a major problem, has a significant impact on nature, and should be addressed mainly via mitigation. With the partial exception of the Dutch groups, all also inform their members about domestic climate change politics. Other themes, including international dimensions of climate change, adaptation to climate change, consumer behavior, collaboration with and criticism of business, and efforts to pressure business or government received less emphasis overall. How much emphasis the organizations gave these themes was conditioned by their traditions, constituencies, national context, and international affiliations.
Demystifying Adaptation Processes in Relation to Climate Change
Thomas F. Thornton and Nadia Manasfi
In climate change discourse and policy, adaptation has become a critical byword and frame of reference. An implicit assumption in much of the strategizing is the notion that adaptation can be rationally planned, funded, and governed largely through existing frameworks. But can adaptation really be managed or engineered, especially given the significant unpredictability and severe impacts that are forecast in a range of climate scenarios? Over millennia, successful societies have adapted to climate shifts, but evidence suggests that this was often accomplished only through wide-ranging reorganization or the institution of new measures in the face of extreme environmental stress. This essay critically examines the concept of human adaptation by dividing it into eight fundamental processes and viewing each in a broad cultural, ecological, and evolutionary context. We focus our assessment especially on northern indigenous peoples, who exist at the edges of present-day climate governance frameworks but at the center of increasingly acute climate stress.
Considering Social Science and the Production of Island Vulnerability and Opportunity
This article argues that climate change has influenced the way in which small island nations are viewed and understood by the international climate community. Climate change has become an internationally recognized and specific language of vulnerability that is deployed in requests for international aid to fund adaptation and mitigation measures in some small islands, for population relocation plans and human rights advocacy in other islands, and for overhauling the 'tourism product' and creating new markets for travel in others. Vulnerability is a powerful idiom, especially in the contemporary climate context that has come to imply crisis, change, uncertainty, and immediacy. Importantly, vulnerability also gestures unambiguously toward seemingly limitless scientific and even commercial opportunity. These developments come with new forms of expertise in the natural and social sciences and the travel industry, as well as with new or reinstated forms of inequity. As the areas of small island expertise increasingly overlap, they come to reproduce the very context and form of small islands themselves.
Climate Change and Long-term Stakeholder Engagement
Carrie Furman, Wendy-Lin Bartels and Jessica Bolson
As awareness of the potential threats posed by climate change increases, researchers and agricultural advisors are being called upon to determine the risks that different stakeholder groups will likely confront and to develop adaptive strategies. Yet, engaging with stakeholders takes time. It also requires a clear and detailed plan to ensure that research and outreach activities yield useful outputs. In this article, we focus on the role of anthropologists as researchers and conveners in stakeholder engagement and provide a generalised overview of a long-term engagement process proceeding in three stages: (1) fact-finding and relationship- building; (2) incubation and collaborative learning; and (3) informed engagement and broad dissemination. We conclude with a discussion of perspectives and challenges that were encountered during two engagement experiences in the south-eastern United States.
Werner Krauss and Hans von Storch
Recent surveys show that the communication about climate change between science and the public is severely disturbed. In this article we discuss this problem in focusing on both regional climate services and other, local forms of knowledge. The authors suggest that climate science and its public services have to critically revise their own practices and to acknowledge other forms of knowledge about climate as constitutive. Based on approaches from geography and anthropology, the article first discusses the short history and "normal practices" of regional climate services and how they approach the public. Outlining the potentials and constraints of this concept, the article focuses on the friction, on "its openness to change as it rubs up against society" (Hulme 2007). The focus then shifts to local knowledge systems and how they deal with the challenges of a changing climate. In addition to the "extended peer review" as a new option for climate research in a post-normal setup, the authors discuss the possibility of an "extended knowledge basis," that is, the integration of different forms of climate knowledge with a special focus on regional populations.
Reaching Bedrock in Climate Science
By exploring the multiple natures of a naturalist cosmology within the empirical terrain of climate science, this article examines what remains of the nature-culture divide in the Anthropocene. While scientists are familiar with critiques of scientific realism and work within a repertoire of multiple natures, they also maintain the boundary between the epistemic object (climate) and the material object (ice). While for science studies, the main object of science is socio-material practices, such as ice core drilling, for the scientists this drilling is more of a theatrical performance for the public and the funders. I argue that the tension between science and science studies can be circumnavigated by a double move: remaining faithful to the ways in which scientists draw modern boundaries, but also eliciting their reflexive ways of dealing with multiple natures from within a naturalist cosmology.
China has argued that developed countries should take the lead in international climate change mitigation, while developing countries should be allowed to realize their economic development and implement voluntary measures. This position may seem purely political. However, this article shows that Chinese science also contributes to constructing the perspectives of development, equity, and responsibility. Chinese climate models, emission graphs, and graphs of future emissions are presented to show that these scientific inscriptions contain and coproduce these values in conjunction with political inscriptions. The findings demonstrate that scientific inscriptions are essential to stabilize the Chinese climate network, and that political practice cannot separate scientific facts from political contestation over climate and development.
The Example of Climate Change
“Good governance” may be viewed as governance that effectively promotes human rights, human security and human development. This article discusses human security analysis, which in certain ways offers an integration of these “human” perspectives together with a “social” orientation, by combining a person-focus with systematic investigation of the environing systems of all sorts: physical, cultural, organizational. The importance of such analysis is illustrated through the example of climate change impacts and adaptation. The article presents applications of a human security framework in governance, for policy analysis, planning and evaluation issues in climate change and other fields. The concluding section suggests that human security analysis may provide a way to apply insights from social quality analysis to detailed case investigation and policy analysis, while reducing macro-sociological abstraction and neglect of the natural environment.