In the past decade there has been a shift of focus from individual archaeological sites to an approach that incorporates the dynamic interplay of land, climate, society, economy, ritual and technical innovation. A growing understanding of past climates and environments, coupled with the use of satellite technology and other means of remote sensing, has opened new avenues of interpretation. Classic problems, such as the origins and spread of agrarian societies, have benefited from an array of new scientific methods, and there is increasing attention to social and ritual aspects of society.
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.
Robyn Eckersley and Jean-Paul Gagnon
Modern environmentalism, whose genesis tracks mainly from the 1960s and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), has forced the anthropocentric emphasis of democracy to account. Nonhuman actors like trees, ecological systems, and the climate have increasingly become anthropomorphized by humans representing these actors in politics. Aside from challenges to the anthropocentric concepts of citizenship, political representation, agency, and boundaries in democratic theory, environmentalism has warned of apocalyptic crises. This drives a different kind of challenge to mainly liberal democracies. Scientists and activists are becoming increasingly fed up with the seeming incompetence, slowness, and idiocy of politicians, interest groups, and electors. Eyes start to wander to that clean, well-kempt, and fast-acting gentleman called authoritarianism. The perfect shallowness of his appearance mesmerizes like a medusa those that would usually avoid him. Serfdom increasingly looks like a palpable trade-off to keep the “green” apocalypses at bay. Democracy’s only answer to this challenge is to evolve into a cleverer version of itself.
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, Mike S. Schäfer and Hans von Storch
This special symposium grew out of a workshop held in Hamburg in 2011 (Krauss and von Storch 2012) and of a long-term interest in climate research as post-normal science. A decade earlier, Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch (1999) stated that the management of uncertainty and its extension into the political and social realm make climate science a case for post-normal science. Interpreting a survey among German and American climate scientists, they suggested that scientific policy advice is the result of both scientific knowledge and normative judgment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?