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Bleu, Blanc…Green?

France and Climate Change

Éloi Laurent

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.

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Rethinking Adaptation

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.

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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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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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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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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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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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Des Gasper

“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.

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Adaptation--Genuine and Spurious

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.

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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.