The article provides a general overview of social sciences perspectives to analyze and theorize climate research, climate discourse, and climate policy. First, referring to the basic paradigm of sociology, it points out the feasible scope and necessary methodology of environmental sociology as a social science concerning the analysis of physical nature. Second, it illustrates this epistemological conception by few examples, summarizing main results of corresponding climate-related social science investigations dealing with the development dynamics of climate research, the role of scientific (climate impact) assessments in politics, varying features and changes of climate discourses, climate policy formation, and knowledge diffusion from climate science. The receptivity of climate discourse and climate policy to the results of problem-oriented climate research is strongly shaped and limited by its multifarious character as well as by their own (internal) logics. The article shows that social sciences contribute their specific (conceptual) competences to problem-oriented research by addressing climate change and corresponding adaptation and mitigation strategies.
France and Climate Change
The deadly heat wave of August 2003 convinced a majority of French of the dramatic impact of climate change. This article aims at presenting evidence and analysis about public perception, environmental performance, and policy development in France with regards to this major public apprehension. The French are indeed among the most concerned people in the world and the EU about climate change, and they seem more willing than others to act resolutely to mitigate it. Yet, if the performance of the French economy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (GHS) is flattering, ambitious public policies will have to be implemented to achieve the "factor 4" objective set in 2005 (a four-fold reduction of GHG by 2050). This was precisely the main purpose of the "Grenelle environnement," which in 2007 tried to build into the law the national consensus on climate change and the sustainability of which is bound to be tested by acute economic difficulties.
This article suggests that our current (fearful) preoccupation with climate change emerges from two paradoxical desires: the desire to recover some mythical benign stable state for the world's climate and the desire to assert ourselves over the world's climate by engineering our way to achieve this outcome. But by seeing climate either as something to be idealized or as something to master, we fail to see what is happening to the world's climate. It is being reinvented as a novel entity, now co-produced between human and nonhuman actors. Rather than resist and lament the results of this new creative force, we must learn to live with them.
William R. Thompson
Evidence on river flow levels and other forms of climate indicators suggest significant variation in climate and water availability within the Bronze Age period. Intermittent deterioration in climate appears to have contributed to periodic crises (toward the ends of the fourth, third, and second millennia, as well as in the middle of the second millennium) manifested throughout the Near East. These periodic crises are associated variably with hinterland pressures on urban centers, governmental collapse, and, to a lesser extent, economic contraction. Climate was probably not the primary driver of these times of troubles, but climatic deterioration systematically made things worse.
Taking Amazonian Climate Science Seriously
Drawing on fieldwork with researchers and technicians involved in a scientific project in the Brazilian rainforest, this article explores specific aspects of climate science in the Amazon. It suggests that taking science seriously anthropologically requires an investigation into the relation between endo-anthropology and exo-anthropology. This is done recursively by exploring a particular way in which what is 'inside' and what is 'outside' are achieved and negotiated in the scientific practice under study. Researchers and technicians 'do' some crucial distinctions with data, and the article points to the importance of the flux of data and the boundaries and sides that emerge from the control of that flux.
Emotions, Evolution, and Climate Change
Debra J. Davidson
Understanding that climate change poses considerable threats for social systems, to which we must adapt in order to survive, social responses to climate change should be viewed in the context of evolution, which entails the variation, selection, and retention of information. Digging deeper into evolutionary theory, however, emotions play a surprisingly prominent role in adaptation. This article offers an explicitly historical, nondirectional conceptualization of our potential evolutionary pathways in response to climate change. Emotions emerge from the intersection of culture and biology to guide the degree of variation of knowledge to which we have access, the selection of knowledge, and the retention of that knowledge in new (or old) practices. I delve into multiple fields of scholarship on emotions, describing several important considerations for understanding social responses to climate change: emotions are shared, play a central role in decision-making, and simultaneously derive from past evolutionary processes and define future evolutionary processes.
Donna Houston, Diana McCallum, Wendy Steele and Jason Byrne
Cosmopolitical action in a climate-changed city represents different knowledges and practices that may seem disconnected but constellate to frame stories and spaces of a climate-just city. The question this article asks is: how might we as planners identify and develop counter-hegemonic praxes that enable us to re-imagine our experience of, and responses to, climate change? To explore this question, we draw on Isabelle Stengers’s (2010) idea of cosmopolitics—where diverse stories, perspectives, experiences, and practices can connect to create the foundation for new strategic possibilities. Our article is empirically informed by conversations with actors from three Australian cities (Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth) who are mobilizing different approaches to this ideal in various grassroots actions on climate change.
Governance, survival, and transition
Tomas Max Martin, Andrew M. Jefferson and Mahuya Bandyopadhyay
In December 2010 members of the Global Prisons Research Network (GPRN) met for a seminar entitled “Dissecting the 'Non-Western' Prison.” The articles showcased in this thematic section were first presented there. This introduction proposes the notion of “prison climate” as a useful way of rethinking variations and similarities across prisons. This notion directs attention away from the prison “as such” to the prison “as is” and points to the fact that the idea of prison itself is contested and changing, however hegemonic it might appear. We argue that a truly representative and international penology should go beyond the mapping of differences and similarities. Rather, the researcher should pursue the twofold question of what persists and what mutates within and across prison worlds. We advocate an ethnographic orientation to deciphering the entanglements of relations, practices, and dynamics that constitute particular prison climates and we include some reflections on the particular challenges of conducting fieldwork in prisons.
This article is a non-technical review of the economics of global policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Quite a lot is known about the likely physical consequences of anthropogenic climate change, but much uncertainty remains. In particular, account needs to be taken of possible catastrophes such as ice sheet melting. How are we to balance the known costs of taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the present against the uncertain benefits of such action for future generations? How convincing is the case for substantial measures to be undertaken now? If the case for such action is accepted, should emissions be controlled via Kyoto-style national emissions targets or by the imposition of carbon taxes? How can the challenges of burden sharing between developed and developing countries be addressed?
Ben-Willie Kwaku Golo and Joseph Awetori Yaro
The hydra-headed nature of climate change—affecting not just climate but all other domains of human life—requires not just technological fixes but cultural innovation. It is impossible to ignore a devoutly religious majority in Ghana, a nation where diverse religious communities' perspectives on climate change and their views on the way forward are crucial. This article aims to empirically explore how Christian, Islamic, and indigenous African religious leaders view the challenges of climate change and what countermeasures they propose. Interestingly, most our informants have indicated that the reasons for the current environmental crisis are, in equal degree, Ghana's past colonial experience and deviation from religious beliefs and practice, while the main obstacle to sustainable development is poverty. There was unanimity on the reclamation of religious values and principles that promote the idea of stewardship as a way forward toward a sustainable future. This, however, functions more as a faith claim and a religiously inspired normative postulate than a program of concrete action.