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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.

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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.

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Jost Wübbeke

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.

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Stefan Böschen

Envisioning strategies for sustainable development and its governance are knowledge-intensive processes. Against this background, conflicts about the correct form and actual validity of knowledge supporting sustainable development have arisen. What can be seen as evident-and what not? This article is based on the argument that there are differing modes creating evidence within “epistemic“ and “practice“ communities. Therefore, I propose to decipher knowledge production for sustainable development as processes of social experimentation in Dewey's sense. To do so, I introduce the concept of a “formative public“ for analyzing the cultural and institutional contexts of such processes. The argument is underlined by a focused description of the cases of chemical regulations and climate change politics. The findings support the argument that the politics of sustainable development has to elaborate guidelines and institutional structures for processing knowledge as a social experiment in order to resolve the conflicting ideas mirrored through differing accounts of the evidence.

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Climate Changing Small Islands

Considering Social Science and the Production of Island Vulnerability and Opportunity

Amelia Moore

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.

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Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation

Perspectives from a Century of Water Resources Development

Clive Agnew and Philip Woodhouse

The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the influential Stern Report both reinforce the warming of the earth's climate system. The alarming environmental, social, and economic consequences of this trend call for immediate action from individuals, institutions, and governments. This article identifies parallels between the problem of adaptive management presented by climate change and an earlier 'global water crisis'. It explores how adaptive strategies have successively emphasized three different principles, based on science, economics, and politics/institutions. The article contends that the close association between climate change and water resources development enables a comparative analysis to be made between the strategies that have been adopted for the latter over the last 100 years. It argues that the experience of water resources development suggests a strong interdependence between the three principles and concludes that conceptualizing them as different dimensions of a single governance framework is necessary to meet the challenge of climate change adaptation.

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Robert Eastwood

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?

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Md Saidul Islam and Si Hui Lim

Home to 60 percent of the world's population, Asia accounts for 85 percent of those killed and affected globally by disaster events in 2011. Using an integrated sociological framework comprised of the pressure and release (PAR) model and the double-risk society hypothesis, and drawing on data obtained from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), PreventionWeb, and the IPCC special report on extreme events, this article offers a sociological understanding of disaster development and recovery in Asia. The particular focus is on seven Asian countries, namely, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Rather than treating disasters entirely as “natural” events caused by “violent forces of nature”, we emphasize various ways in which social systems create disaster vulnerability. We argue that existing disaster mitigation and adaptation strategies in Asia that focus almost entirely on the natural and technological aspects of hazards have serious limitations, as they ignore the root causes of disaster vulnerabilities, such as limited access to power and resources. This article therefore recommends a holistic approach to disaster management and mitigation that takes into consideration the various larger social, political, and economic conditions and contexts.

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David Hall

Climate action is conventionally framed in terms of overcoming epistemic and practical disagreement. An alternative view is to treat people’s understandings of climate change as fundamentally pluralistic and to conceive of climate action accordingly. This paper explores this latter perspective through a framework of philosophical psychology, in particular Bernard Williams’s distinction between internal and external reasons. This illuminates why the IPCC’s framework of ‘Reasons for Concern’ has an inefficacious relationship to people’s concerns and, hence, why additional reason giving is required. Accordingly, this paper recommends a model of truthful persuasion, which acknowledges the plurality of people’s motivations and sincerely strives to connect the facts of climate change to people’s subjective motivational sets.

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Jobst Conrad

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.