World Social Science Report 2013

World Social Science Report 2013

Changing Global Environments You do not have access to this content

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15 Nov 2013
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Produced by the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and UNESCO, and published by the OECD, the 2013 World Social Science Report represents a comprehensive overview of the field gathering the thoughts and expertise of hundreds of social scientists from around the world.

This edition focuses on the transformative role of the social sciences in confronting climate and broader processes of environmental change, and in addressing priority problems from energy and water, biodiversity and land use, to urbanisation, migration and education.

The report includes 100 articles written by 150 authors from 41 countries all over the world. Authors represent some 24 disciplines, mainly in the social sciences.

The contributions highlight the central importance of social science knowledge for environmental change research, as a means of understanding changing environments in terms of social processes and as framework for finding concrete solutions towards sustainability.

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  • Preface

    The World Social Science Report captures a world undergoing deep change, rocked by multiple crises, including in the environment. It builds on the previous World Social Science Report, published in 2010, which addressed the challenge of knowledge divides in the social sciences. On this foundation, the present Report tackles the key theme of "Changing Global Environments". Like its predecessor, the new Report highlights knowledge divides – not just within the sciences, but also between the sciences and the social transformations required to achieve sustainable development. The gap between what we know about the interconnectedness and fragility of our planetary system and what we are actually doing about it is alarming. And it is deepening.

  • Preface – A lighter carbon footprint, a greener world

    As one of the most pressing of today’s global environmental problems, climate change presents a complex and controversial challenge to industrialised and emerging economies. Climate change is a recent concern, but has become one of the most critical issues for the current generation. Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, it has evoked a strong response at both the community and governmental levels. Evidence of climate change is abundant, yet a degree of denial persists at the community and government levels, and in many countries, about its causes and consequences. Sceptics question whether climate change results primarily from human activity, believing instead that it results only from natural events independent of a human-caused carbon footprint.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Acronyms and abbreviations
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Changing global environments

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    • Social sciences in a changing global environment: General introduction

      Global environmental change is linked to and exacerbates other social, economic and political crises such as poverty and inequality. Global sustainability requires urgent action to protect the planet and ensure human equity, dignity and well-being. The social sciences need to research the human causes, vulnerabilities and impacts of environmental change more effectively and inform responses to the challenges society faces. Social scientists need to work with each other and with colleagues from the natural and physical sciences to deliver credible, useful knowledge to help solve the world’s problems.

    • Global environmental change changes everything: Key messages and recommendations

      Drawn from the more than 150 authors in the World Social Science Report 2013, the key messages and recommendations call for a new kind of social science – one that is bolder, better, bigger, different. There is a need to reframe global environmental change as a social process, infuse social science insights into problem-solving processes, encourage more social scientists to address global environmental change directly, and change the way the social sciences think about and do science to help meet the interdisciplinary and cross-sector changes society faces.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The complexity and urgency of global environmental change and social transformation

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    • Social and environmental change in a complex, uncertain world

      Global environmental change is a potentially catastrophic and increasingly urgent problem for humanity. It is relevant to individuals, organisations and governments everywhere. But what exactly makes it so? How is the world changing around us, and how and where can the course and conditions of such change be altered? What role can and must the social sciences play in such efforts? These are the "big picture" questions tackled in Part 1, questions that expose the complexity and urgency of global environmental change, and locate it at the centre of the quest to secure a sustainable future for all.

    • What's the problem? Putting global environmental change into perspective

      Why worry about the global environment? Are the financial crisis and poverty not far more urgent? And will technological innovation not solve global warming? Looking at problems as separate and discrete can be misleading. Global environmental changes are systemic issues that are closely related to human activities. The solutions thus lie in human actions that address the systems and structures that contribute to global environmental change. Are broader and deeper understandings needed to ensure transformative action?

    • The challenge of sustainable development and the social sciences

      The challenge of sustainable development will soon be enshrined in a new set of global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before them, they are likely to constitute an active work programme for governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businesses and academia. The social sciences will have a key role to play in designing and assessing critical pathways to achieve the new goals.

    • Between social and planetary boundaries: Navigating pathways in the safe and just space for humanity

      Rapid environmental change in the face of enduring poverty and social inequality has brought unprecedented attention to the challenge of achieving social equity and environmental sustainability, at all levels from the local to the global. There is a clear need for conceptual approaches that enable these challenges to be addressed together, so that options for pathways to equitable and sustainable development can be identified and debated. The concept of social and planetary boundaries, integrated with the three "Ds" agenda – direction, diversity and distribution – provides one such framework. This can be used to identify alternative pathways and inform consideration of their social and political implications.

    • Inclusive wealth and the transition to sustainability

      Inclusive wealth aims to measure the natural, human and manufactured capital of nations. Understanding changes in this productive capital base provides guidance to policymakers on the sustainability of economic welfare.

    • Gender and environmental change

      Whether assessing the impact of environmental degradation and climate change, or building effective governance institutions, rigorous gender analysis will deepen and broaden our understanding of environmental problems, and help find relevant, effective, equitable solutions.

    • Social science understandings of transformation

      Society must adapt and learn to live in a world that is 4°C warmer. Many encourage profound changes in the way society is organised and responds to change, often using the language of transformation. How is transformation understood in the context of environmental change? What can be learned from a case study of transformative social and political change? The authors identify challenges for social science to inform, guide and reflect critically on the transformation concept, and to contribute to debates on reshaping society to cope with environmental change.

    • Changing the conditions of change by learning to use the future differently

      The world’s current problems call for better thinking about the future. While model-based and data-driven scenarios have their place, there is scope for people and organisations to use a freer anticipatory approach – the emerging discipline of anticipation – or futures literacy, which can help reduce fear of the unknown, and is a more systematic and accurate way of using the future to understand the present.

    • A new vision of open knowledge systems for sustainability: Opportunities for social scientists

      In the new open knowledge landscape, social scientists have a unique opportunity to take on a more influential role in accelerating global sustainability learning and transformation. Decisions concerning sustainability are not to be made by policymakers or experts alone, but by different knowledge holders organised around context-specific needs and transdisciplinary practices.

    • Open knowledge and learning for sustainability

      Open knowledge and learning are spreading across the world and across domains from science to political power. This shift opens up the possibility for citizens, experts, children and others to work together in new ways for their own benefit, for the benefit of others, and for the good of the planet as a whole.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Social science capacity in global environmental change research

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    • Regional divides in global environmental change research capacity

      Part 1 presented the urgency and complexity of global environmental change and highlighted the role social sciences should play in analysing the problems and in suggesting solutions. But do social sciences have the capacity to play that role – particularly where people are most vulnerable to the consequences of global environmental change? Part 2 analyses the state of social science research on global environmental change in different parts of the world, and its capacity to address the many complex issues that it raises.

    • The social sciences and global environmental change in the United States

      The United States is the largest producer of social science publications on global environmental change, which has been studied by United States social scientists for more than a century. The emergence of climate change as a global issue during the 1990s has also led to a growing body of social science (and multidisciplinary) analysis and assessment of causes and consequences of global environmental change. Despite the progress and achievements, challenges still exist to expanding social science research on environmental change issues, including building capacity and improving communications and advocacy.

    • Social sciences at the crossroads: Global environmental change in Latin America and the Caribbean

      Global environmental change in Latin America and the Caribbean ranges from urbanisation to deforestation and melting glaciers. The understanding of relations between nature and society in this context requires coupled human–environmental frameworks across spatial and temporal scales. Transdisciplinarity and co-production of knowledge from the social to the natural sciences and to traditional knowledge will result in more effective solutions.

    • Brazilian studies on environmental activism

      In the 1970s, the Brazilian government valued development more than environmental protection, even at the UN Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972. Today, however, Brazil has advanced environmental legislation in many areas and a huge environmental bureaucracy. The growth of the Brazilian environmental movement was mainly responsible for this turnaround.

    • Social sciences and global environmental change research in Latin America

      The Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) reports on challenges faced in Latin America and the Caribbean. Social and natural scientists need to collaborate and work together more closely and research needs to include indigenous, local and community level perspectives of socio-environmental issues.

    • Quo vadis? The state of social sciences and climate and global environmental change in Europe

      Demands for a better understanding of the human dimensions of global environmental change have led to an increase in social science and humanities research in Europe. New strategies and reforms are improving opportunities. Furthermore, research is becoming more relevant for policy and wider societal needs. However, the recognition of the role of social sciences and the humanities in leading and framing global environmental change research agendas has still not been fully realised.

    • The state of social sciences and global environmental change in Russia

      Despite public support for environmental issues, in Russia policymakers, social scientists and the media in particular do not prioritise them. Indeed Russian elites view the planet as a resource to be exploited. Trust between social and natural scientists and across disciplines is needed if collaborative interdisciplinary research is to succeed.

    • Global environmental change and the social sciences in the Arab world

      The social sciences in the Arab States have largely neglected global environmental change. Local citizens are concerned by and interested in these issues, however, and international studies point out the possible disastrous consequences of this neglect. Local studies deal with social aspects of environmental problems but are not linked directly to global environmental change. Nor are they influencing decision-makers, the media and society.

    • Social science perspectives on global environmental change in sub-Saharan Africa

      Climate change and climate variability in sub-Saharan Africa tend to expose existing environmental risks and opportunities. Despite some noted social science interest and work in this field, including good examples at the continental and local levels, much more can still be done by and with Africans, including at the local community level.

    • African perspectives needed on global environmental change research

      Environmental concerns are central to the daily lives of ordinary people across Africa: land grabbing, mining, environmental degradation, commoditisation of natural resources. How can social sciences face up to the challenges of the 21st century? The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) provides insights into the challenges global environmental change research in Africa is facing.

    • Global environmental change and the social sciences in eastern and southern Africa

      The Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA) reports on the global environmental and climate change challenges facing this region such as land degradation, deforestation, soil erosion, and declining soil fertility. But is social science research doing enough and does it have the capacity to help the region cope more effectively with these challenges?

    • Social science research and global environmental change in India and South Asia

      Policy debates in South Asia have only recently started to focus on climate change, even though it is a major concern for civil society and the media. More broadly, social science research on global environmental change needs to break out of traditional disciplinary boundaries if it is to have greater impact. This will only happen with appropriate institutional and funding support and incentives.

    • Social science research on climate change in China

      In China, climate change and global environmental change are much higher on the political and social science agenda than ten years ago. Although economists are heavily involved, other disciplines are less visible and progress is slow. For interdisciplinary research to flourish, incentives and stronger institutional structures are needed as well as better education and training opportunities.

    • Social sciences in Japan after Fukushima

      Social sciences in Japan altered course after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accidents of March 2011 near Fukushima. This prompted new research trends, challenges and directions. Two years on, Japanese social science research is more interdisciplinary and includes work on critical global environmental change issues.

    • Social science research on global environmental change in the Asia-Pacific region

      Despite the many problems which global environmental change poses for the Asia-Pacific region, the social sciences have been slow to develop research on the issues it raises. New ways of working are starting to emerge, however, partly driven by the awareness that many Asia-Pacific populations are highly vulnerable to climate change, as the Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils (AASSREC) reports.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The consequences of global environmental change for society

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    • The consequences of global environmental change

      This section identifies current and future consequences of global environmental change events for people and communities, with special attention to the poorest and most vulnerable. Understanding how global environmental change events will impact on the different groups and sectors within societies is essential to improving current policy measures and to design effective solutions.

    • Are Algerian agro-pastoralists adapting to climate change?

      Climate change in Algeria has led to increasing drought and erosion, damaging the livelihoods of agro-pastoralists trying to eke out a living on the steppe. In trying to adapt, herders have altered their traditional practices and behaviour over the years. Government policies – mainly subsidies – have had largely negative consequences. This is a good example of maladaptation.

    • Relocation as a policy response to climate change vulnerability in northern China

      Taking the Ningxia Autonomous Region in China as an example, and applying participatory social research, this article assesses the important determinants of vulnerability to climate change in rural communities and the relative degree of spatial vulnerability. Over the past decades, rural households have undertaken self-initiated adaptation, while the local government is in the process of permanently relocating some inhabitants to less vulnerable regions.

    • Climate change, flooding and economic well-being in Nigerian cities

      Climate-induced flooding has a severe effect on the livelihoods and economic well-being of households in urban Nigeria. Data from 350 households in urban Nigeria reveals that education levels, household size, poverty, membership of co-operatives and distance from canals are important determinants of vulnerability. Education and information sharing are two important ways to help households face or reduce climate-induced risk.

    • Resilience and adaptation in Dhaka, Bangladesh

      Megacities in the South are particularly at risk from climate change. They are poor, with weak social and physical infrastructures that can barely cope with the negative effects of climate change, including migration. Collaborative resilience and the social and physical capacity to adapt are at the heart of human survival strategies. What Dhaka needs are flexible institutions, good governance and transparency, and strong social systems and networks.

    • Population and land-change dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon

      This paper presents a synthesis of the theoretical and methodological insights that the social sciences bring to land-change science, using the example of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Social sciences were crucial in moving across scales – from regional to local – in incorporating rural smallholders in the land-change studies and in enhancing the discussion about the strategic role of farming families in forest conservation and food security.

    • The risks of global warming to coral reef ecosystems

      Coral reefs are said to be the world’s most biodiverse environments. Many coastal communities are highly dependent on the ecosystem services they provide. But rising water temperatures contribute to their degradation. The BIOCORE project works to devise policy suggestions to minimise these losses and ensure sustainable management and conservation of coral reefs.

    • Vulnerable and resilient children after disasters and gene–environment interplay

      The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that disaster doubles the occurrence of mental distress. Yet certain children show huge resilience, despite losing their homes and parents, while others suffer enormous mental distress. Gene–environment interdependence plays a crucial role in children’s different reactions: experience of disasters is genetically influenced, and may influence the rest of a victim’s life.

    • Migration as an adaptation strategy to environmental change

      Environmental change affects patterns of migration by altering the location and mix of economic activity. While immobility leaves vulnerable populations at increased risk, the trend to migrate to cities as an adaptation strategy also involves risk for migrant populations.

    • The paradoxes of climate change and migration

      Human migration is often seen as one of the most serious consequences of climate change. Indeed, it can be seen as a security or humanitarian issue. But might it also be a positive adaptation response to climate change?

    • The role of the social sciences in adapting to climate change in northern Europe

      Social sciences have an important role to play in studies of adaptation to climate change, as all such adaptations will need to be implemented within socio-political and economic systems. This paper looks at cases in northern Europe.

    • Women and climate change adaptation in Zimbabwe

      Drawing on the literature on gender and climate change in Zimbabwe, this contribution outlines important links between climate change and gender inequality, focusing particularly on women and adaptation.

    • Ex-rubber tappers' and small farmers' views of weather changes in the Amazon

      How do people living in the Amazon forest, and to be precise in the Alto Juruá region of Brazil, understand climate change? Indigenous forest dwellers make their own observations and interpretations from changes in animal behaviour.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Conditions and visions for change and sense-making in a rapidly changing world

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    • Possibilities and prospects of social change in response to the environmental crisis

      Part 4 focuses on visions of change, particularly the role of technology and shifts in economic policies in shaping the future; conditions of change: that is, the drivers and barriers to changes in human behaviour; and interpretation and subjective sense-making, exploring how individuals and societies perceive and understand the changes occurring around them.

    • Promises and pitfalls of the green economy

      The green economy is an important feature of policy discussions around the world. It is portrayed as part of the solution to the global economic crisis, and as an innovative, efficient means of advancing the climate change agenda. It promises a targeted economic stimulus to launch the transition to a low carbon economy and spur long-term prosperity based on radical new technologies and improvements in resource efficiency. Clearly, this is a seductive idea worthy of careful scrutiny by social scientists.

    • Making sense of techno-optimism? The social science of nanotechnology and sustainability

      Using nanotechnology, scientists can change the atomic configuration of matter. New materials have seemingly magical applications, with promise that ranges from harnessing energy from the sun to eternally recycling materials by breaking them down into their atomic building blocks and reassembling them. It is vital, as UNESCO has urged, that social scientists engage fully in debates on nanoethics, and contribute to policy and decision-making processes concerning the use of nanotechnology in achieving sustainability.

    • Bringing new meanings to molecules by integrating green chemistry and the social sciences

      The chemical industry, perhaps more than any other, needs to change if it is to be acceptable and viable in a greener, more sustainable world. Chemists and chemical engineers are taking up this challenge through "green chemistry," and social scientists with backgrounds in economics, politics and law, along with environmental health scholars, are increasingly collaborating with them to produce socially robust knowledge through interdisciplinary scholarship.

    • Individual and collective behaviour change

      Negative consequences normally lead people to change their behaviour, but the timelag between behavioural cause and many environmental impacts makes it hard for people to see the connection. Other barriers to change include lack of a fear response and habits. To promote change, new behavioural routines need to be established using default options and social imitation. Existing goal conflicts need to be minimised by better communication of the co-benefits of environmental goals. Since many people in developing countries aspire to a western lifestyle that adversely affects the global environment, different models of human happiness need to be explored.

    • Going green? Using evolutionary psychology to foster sustainable lifestyles

      Polls show that very few people purchase green products or curb their consumption to become more green. Owing to natural selection, most humans tend to prioritise their self-interest, disregard the future, desire status, imitate others, and ignore evolutionary threats such as global climate change. All of these obstacles can, however, be overcome, or be used to promote sustainability.

    • Environmental issues and household sustainability in Australia

      The complex and variable structure of households makes it difficult to design policies to help them behave in a greener way. Cultural research methods, particularly ethnography, provide survey research with the necessary extra depth. These perspectives illustrate pathways towards sustainable results and the problems of achieving more sustainable outcomes.

    • Models of human behaviour in social-ecological systems

      Environmental change research often relies on simplistic, static models of human behaviour in social-ecological systems. This limits understanding of how social-ecological change occurs. Integrative, process-based behavioural models, which include feedbacks between action, and social and ecological system structures and dynamics, can inform dynamic policy assessment in which decision making is internalised in the model. These models focus on dynamics rather than states. They stimulate new questions and foster interdisciplinarity between and within the natural and social sciences.

    • Social aspects of solid waste in the global South

      Municipal solid waste is seen either as a nuisance or as a commodity and social dimensions are less important. Waste problems require an integrated, multifaceted, interdisciplinary approach. Informal but organised recycling in Brazil is an example of an innovative, inclusive resource recovery and environmental awareness strategy that has many benefits for the environment and for the waste collectors. Policies need to safeguard the social dimension and the ecological and economic aspects of waste management.

    • Incentives for low-carbon communities in Shanghai, China

      It is essential for China’s fast-growing cities to reduce their environmental impact. Vanke, a major housing development in Shanghai, has been a test case of what is possible in the area of waste reuse and recycling. It shows that considerable issues remain unsolved in terms of altering the behaviour of Chinese householders.

    • Climate change education and Education for Sustainable Development

      Under the auspices of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), UNESCO is leading efforts to integrate educational responses to climate change, mitigation and adaptation. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which is growing in schools around the world, encourages pupils to think broadly about pressing scientific, technological and human issues. It also recognises that a sustainable environment is essential if children are to live a secure and rewarding life.

    • Education, science and climate change in French schools

      Education for Sustainable Development in France is taught at all levels across all subjects in state schools. Climate change is not taught as a subject in its own right, until secondary level. Good teacher training is essential to enable teachers to teach this controversial issue in an interesting and scientific way.

    • Are increasing greenhouse gas emissions inevitable?

      Western development over the past century involves the interdependent development of a cluster of high-carbon socio-technical systems and related social practices. Reversing these systems will be a massive challenge. Instead a set of low-carbon models or systems are needed, using new practices of low-carbon innovation. This article explores the likelihood of these developing as more than tiny niches, and ends by noting some green shoots of such alternatives.

    • The human dimensions of global environmental change

      Cross-national surveys indicate that environmental issues are not the main concern in any country or region, and from 1993-2010 there were, on average, no large or consistent trends in public concern with climate change. Climate change is the environmental issue mentioned as the most important in ten of the 33 countries and regions surveyed in 2010. There is no international consensus, although in general, richer nations are more concerned than poorer nations are. Younger generations mention global warming more often than older generations.

    • Environmental attitudes and demographics

      An OECD survey, carried out every three years, assesses the effects of environmental policy on people’s attitudes and behaviour concerning the environment.

    • Sustainable consumption and lifestyles? Children and youth in cities

      This article focuses on one of the world’s first online qualitative global surveys of young consumers and their lifestyles. The discussion highlights how the survey has informed subsequent planning for a new mixed-method global study of urban youth, CYCLES for sustainability. This research aims to equip young people, local and national governments to support flourishing young lives and sustainable consumption more effectively.

    • Bringing poor people's voices into policy discussions

      The Equity and Sustainability Field Hearings project set out to ensure that poor communities have the opportunity to share their views on sustainable development and poverty issues. Coordinated by the Initiative for Equality, civil society and research groups are working to find out what poor and disadvantaged communities think about their future. Their responses will be compiled and included in the Sustainable Development Goals dialogue and decision-making processes.

    • Climate is culture

      The Cape Farewell project brings environmental scientists and creative artists together to consider the challenges posed by climate change. It has sent over 200 artists to places and communities around the world to produce responses, in music, verse, prose and other forms, to human-induced environmental change.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The responsibilities and ethical challenges of tackling global environmental change

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    • Towards greater fairness in sharing the risks and burdens of global environmental change

      Global environmental change is one of the most challenging problems facing the world today. This section illustrates how global environmental change threatens fundamental values, and how action to address it raises serious concerns of ethics and responsibility.

    • Winning environmental justice for the Lower Mekong Basin

      Construction of a mega dam in Southeast Asia’s Lower Mekong Basin has had detrimental effects for biodiversity and millions of people who depend on it. The use of successful case studies, and collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to empower people and increase awareness of their rights, may help win environmental justice for the people of the Lower Mekong Basin.

    • Climate change mitigation, a problem of injustice

      Climate change can be seen as an issue of intergenerational justice, and the ideals of equity and responsibility identified by the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are a useful framework for debating the architecture of international climate policy. Theories of justice from philosophy and political science allow competing proposals and objectives for climate justice to be evaluated.

    • Ethics and energy consumption

      Climate change casts the issue of equitable access to energy in a new light, because fossil fuel use damages poor communities that use little oil, coal or gas themselves. A range of approaches exist to thinking about these issues and developing more ethical and just patterns of energy use.

    • The ethics of geoengineering

      This is a brief literature review of the ethics of geoengineering – the intentional manipulation of the climate system to counteract greenhouse gas emissions. The social sciences have a role to play in clarifying the moral hazards associated with geoengineering, given that future generations may have no other choice but to implement such projects.

    • Ethics as a core driver of sustainability in the Caribbean

      The José Martí Project for World Solidarity is addressing environmental issues in the Caribbean from a political and ethical perspective. The region is especially vulnerable to climate change. Concern about the environment varies even at the community level, depending on how close people live to the resources they rely on for their livelihoods. Yet local islanders have been excluded from devising responses to environmental degradation.

    • The role of religion, education and policy in Iran in valuing the environment

      Iran faces many environmental challenges, including air pollution in cities and sand storms exacerbated by progressive drying out of the land. As a result, the government now has more sympathy for environmental concerns and there are some active green non-governmental organisations. The picture is complicated by varying interpretations of the Qur’an advice on human responsibility for the Earth. School textbooks refer very little to nature and with a dominant Islamic political ideology. Little space is left to discuss the environment in the classroom.

    • Sacred sustainability? Benedictine monasteries in Austria and Germany

      The focus of the transdisciplinary research project, Dealing with the Divine Creation, was to investigate the role of religion, spiritualityand ethics in promoting sustainable development and the environment in four Austrian and two German Benedictine monasteries.

    • Public engagement in discussing carbon capture and storage

      Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage has significant climate change mitigation potential, yet has struggled to gain public acceptance. For it to become socially acceptable, underlying ethical issues need to be addressed. This involves engaging the public in ways that keep the terms of discussion open, that allow a range of possible outcomes, and manage expectations effectively.

    • Biodiversity loss and corporate commitment to the UN Global Compact

      Companies operating in fields that have a significant impact on biodiversity often perform poorly in terms of their managerial response to this challenge. However, those businesses that commit to supporting the UN Global Compact’s principles perform significantly better in terms of biodiversity policies or systems than a wider sample of global, publicly listed, Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) All-World Developed (AWD) Index companies.

    • Towards responsible social sciences

      Deciding how to respond to climate change involves value choices and dealing with constantly changing uncertainties and realities. A holistic view of knowledge is needed, where knowledge is seen as tentative, and in need of constant refining. It is also necessary to reclaim the transformative role of science in making decisions and co-producing policy. Responsible science can respond to these changing realities, but only if knowledge is co-designed and co-produced across the sciences, collaboratively with non-expert sources of knowledge.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts New approaches to governance and decision-making

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    • Dealing with "wicked" environmental problems

      Part 6 presents key debates about environmental governance and decision-making. "Wicked problems" become more pressing to resolve as the pace and scale of global environmental challenges grow and the underlying social problems become more apparent. The contributions examine the role of the social sciences and other types of knowledge in the governance of environmental change and sustainability.

    • Is the IPCC a learning organisation?

      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the scientific basis for climate policies globally, and has raised political and public awareness of climate change. An independent evaluation in 2010 resulted in changes to IPCC procedures, processes and governance structure. But what has it learned, and how can it maintain political relevance and scientific integrity in the face of intense political pressure and an evolving, multidisciplinary scientific field?

    • Failing to translate science into policy? From Stockholm 1972 to Rio+20

      Since the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, there has been a clear failure to put the international environmental agenda into practice, particularly in areas such as climate change. Science is not produced in a policy vacuum, nor does policy operate in a void of knowledge, which is precisely why politics is embedded in this interplay from the outset.

    • The role of LA RED in disaster risk management in Latin America

      LA RED, Network of Social Studies in the Prevention of Disasters in Latin America, has played a central role in the shift from physical to social interpretations of disaster risk in Latin America and elsewhere. Since 1990, the notion that disaster risk is socially constructed has been recognised increasingly by academics and practitioners around the world. LA RED, through its robust cross-disciplinary and integrated approach to research, has contributed significantly to this paradigm shift.

    • A functional risk society? Progressing from management to governance while learning from disasters

      The intensive use of technology, accelerated urbanisation, and use of natural resources and ecosystems services that disregard the dynamics of extreme natural processes are leading to recurrent and increasingly costly disasters. These need to be understood as the result of past decisions combining multiple interests, the consequences of exposure in hazard-prone areas, and of vulnerability in human settlements and activity. The concept of risk society provides a framework for understanding the complex links between contemporary society and risk.

    • Transition to sustainable societies – was Rio+20 a missed opportunity?

      Six talented early-career scientists participated in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 with a grant from the International Social Science Council, supported by the Swedish International Development Agency. Two of them, Diana Sanchez Betancourt from the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa and Dominik Reusser from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, share their views on the outcome of Rio+20.

    • Social learning and climate change adaptation in Thailand

      The Community Climate Center in Thailand aims to bridge the awareness gap between local people, especially farmers, and experts such as climate scientists, helping them to understand each other’s view of the weather and how it is changing. The results include better farming practices, and more understanding by scientists of how climate information is appreciated and used.

    • Indigenous groups and climate change in Colombia

      Indigenous groups in Colombia contribute to solving the problems of climate change and create new perspectives for social sciences. If their knowledge, practices and experience were fully considered at the national governance level, real change in terms of ecological practices would be possible.

    • Fighting to include local voices in environmental policy-making in Brazil

      Local voices and opinions are seen as important in formulating environmental policies, but in reality oral accounts, metaphors and symbols play only a marginal role, while scientific representations still dominate. This problem is deeply rooted in governance discourses that value satellite imagery and other scientific data above local views and experience. This paper focuses on policy-making in Brazil in relation to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

    • The need for indigenous knowledge in adaptation to climate change in Nigeria

      Most solutions dealing with climate change in rural Nigeria are biased in favour of a modern or Western worldview. Local indigenous knowledge of forest management and of adaptation to climate change is seen as irrelevant.

    • Quebec's Plan Nord and integrating indigenous knowledge into social science research

      In the context of the Quebec government’s Plan Nord (2011), this article discusses the contributions that social scientists can make to constructing new forms of research that are sensitive to the traditions of Canadian aboriginal communities. It argues that these new ways of working might inform the organisation, principles and practices of the current social sciences.

    • Participatory water governance in Mercosur countries

      Water is crucial to existence, and is getting scarcer. Participatory governance and involving citizens and social movements in the various stages of managing access to water in Mercosur countries increases access to water and is an important means of democratising natural resource policy-making.

    • Glass half full or half empty? Transboundary water co-operation in the Jordan River Basin

      Extreme water scarcity and political conflict in the Middle East mean that transboundary water can be a source of conflict. Yet conflict and co-operation do exist side by side between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and between Israel and Jordan. A social science perspective is instrumental in understanding how water co-operation in the Jordan River Basin has developed.

    • Global governance and sustainable development

      Global climate change is one of a number of issues, including business globalisation, that raise the need for global governance. There are many possible models for government on a world scale, all involving a growing role for new and existing global organisations.

    • The politics of climate change and grassroots demands

      There is a pressing need to counter the dominant mode of commodity production and economic growth, which is responsible for the negative and unfair impacts of climate change. The political ecology critique emphasises the role of grassroots organisations and affected communities in the production of more inclusive public policies and mitigation strategies. The climate justice approach is a good example of the political ecology approach.

    • Green informal services in India? Rickshaws, rag picking and street vending

      Are informal services greener than their formal or organised counterparts? Beyond their employment potential, non-motorised transport, street vending and waste sorting or rag picking use fewer resources and energy; they also tend to reuse and recycle materials. These possible benefits have been little recognised and rarely calculated. In India, supportive policy frameworks face many hurdles, and protection for workers also needs more attention.

    • Debating transformation in multiple crises

      Robust political and social action is required for humanity to stay within planetary boundaries and ensure socially just and sustainable development. The challenges that this involves are increasingly discussed in terms of socio-ecological and sustainable transformation. The term "transformation" is an appropriate one because it points to the complex financial, economic, social, political, resource and climate dimensions of the crisis.

    • Payments for ecosystem services in biodiversity conservation

      Payments for ecosystem services (PES) are an increasingly applied tool for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Over 300 PES schemes are known to be operational around the world. They involve payments for the conservation of biodiversity, carbon sequestration, water flows and other natural but endangered services of value to humanity.

    • Monitoring the effectiveness of adaptation investments

      Development projects often have the reduction of vulnerability to climate change as a key objective. Monitoring and evaluation methods are now being introduced to analyse the effectiveness of such measures. Remaining challenges include the long timescales of climate change, and the role of climate change adaptation within many major development initiatives.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Contributions from International Social Science Council members, programmes and partners

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    • Contributions from International Social Science Council members, programmes and partners

      Part 7 features contributions from the International Social Science Council’s (ISSC) members, programmes and partners, including international disciplinary associations and unions, the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) programme.

    • Anthropology and environmental change from a holistic and cultural perspective

      Planet Earth has entered a new epoch, the Anthropocene, in which human influence dominates nature, even on global and geological scales. This reinforces the importance of anthropology. Anthropology studies the human species, from its co-evolution, genetics and biology, to our prehistory and early civilizations, and onwards to contemporary human cultures. It examines social settings from hunter-gatherer, pastoralist and subsistence agricultural communities to multinational corporations and global institutions. It is a vital part of efforts to limit the catastrophic effects of anthropogenic environmental change, as the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA) and the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) report.

    • Psychological approaches and contributions to global environmental change

      Psychology offers valuable insights into human appreciation of climate change and ways of encouraging desirable environmental behaviour. Research includes understanding perceptions of global environmental change, motivation and strategies to encourage pro-environmental action, as the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS) reports.

    • The economics of climate and environmental change

      Environmental economics studies the use of the Earth’s natural resources, in particular those not valued in the marketplace and which therefore tend to be overused – such as clean air, water, ecosystems, oceans and the atmosphere. Economists try to provide insights into alternative paths of development such as low-carbon growth without imposing extra costs and impeding economic growth, as the International Economics Association (IEA) reports.

    • The humanities and changing global environments

      The environmental humanities make an important and original contribution to environmental issues by investigating the human dimension in global environmental change. Environmental humanities research questions what it means to be human in the age of the Anthropocene and helps develop a better understanding of human agency and human beings’ relationship with their natural and built environments.

    • Sociology and global environmental change

      Sociologists are moving beyond concern with green issues with a distinctive social aspect, and are posing transdisciplinary questions about ecological, social and technological systems. But they need to challenge existing power relations more deeply, and should be more involved in debates and decisions on climate change, as the International Sociological Association (ISA) reports.

    • Geography and global environmental change

      Geography explores how environments emerge through natural processes, how societies produce, organise, use and misuse such environments, and how society is influenced by the environments it occupies. It sits at the interface of the natural and social sciences, and is thus in a unique position to understand global change and its implications for humanity and the environment. Geographers can help bridge and even close the gap between the social and natural sciences to resolve the global environmental crisis, as the International Geographical Union (IGU) reports.

    • Political science, global environmental change and sustainable development

      Political science is key to understanding national and organisational responses to climate change by states and other actors. Recent learning about globalisation has many applications for political scholarship in the context of global environmental change, as the International Political Science Association (IPSA) reports.

    • Earth System Governance

      The Earth System Governance project is a project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change. It is a major social science research network whose members look beyond current government and political systems and towards the structures needed to manage human societies in the Anthropocene. Their many international activities work towards social justice as well as ecological sustainability.

    • Global Water System Project

      The Global Water System Project (GWSP) produces evidence on the scientific and human aspects of water use in an era of global environmental change. It looks at water governance, water conflict and water shortages, and aims towards sustainable and equitable water use.

    • Global Environmental Change and Human Security

      Global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS) was a core project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). It examined the interaction between environmental and human security, linked to climate-induced migration, disease and poverty. It also examined how people and societies can address these problems and influence their future development.

    • Integrated History and Future of People on Earth

      Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE) is a joint project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). It links the human and environmental histories of the Earth – too often kept separate – into an integrated whole. This will help improve understanding of the past and produce new tools to cope with present and future change.

    • Industrial Transformation

      The Industrial Transformation (IT) project aims to develop industrial activity without malign environmental effects. It sees industry in its social and technological setting. It is especially active in Asia, where rapid economic growth offers the potential for green choices about industrial development.

    • Urbanization and Global Environmental Change

      The Urbanization and Global Environmental Change project is internationally known for identifying, coordinating and synthesising important research related to the interactions and feedbacks between urbanization and global environmental change at local and regional levels.

    • Land–Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone

      The Earth’s coastal zones contribute significantly to our life support systems. Yet they are changing rapidly, in particular as a result of human activity. Land–Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ), a core project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), aims to understand regional and global changes affecting coastal systems, to guide management and decision-making and achieve a more sustainable future.

    • Global Carbon Project

      The Global Carbon Project (GCP) is a joint project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), DIVERSITAS and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). It aims to model carbon flows on all scales in the Earth system and to help guide policy and behaviour to reduce and stabilise greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Global Environmental Change and Food Systems

      The Global Environmental Change and Food Systems (GECAFS) project, part of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), was a pioneer on global food challenges in the context of environmental change. It worked with a wide range of stakeholders at global and regional levels, to examine how changing food systems will affect future food security.

    • Global Environmental Change and Human Health

      Global environmental change poses hazards to human health, as does major social change, such as the current rapid rate of urbanisation around the world. The Global Environmental Change and Human Health (GECHH) project, part of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), examines these issues and develops mitigation strategies to maintain human health under conditions of environmental stress.

    • Global Land Project

      The Global Land Project (GLP) is a joint project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). It looks at human and ecological aspects of land use, including current and future land use change.

    • Integrated Research on Disaster Risk programme

      The Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) programme uses a range of scientific, technological, health and policy approaches to cope with hazards and disasters. It aims to improve and standardise disaster research, to devise approaches that prevent hazards turning into disasters.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Annexes

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    • Basic statistics on the production of social science research


    • Bibliometric analysis of social science research into global environmental change

      The Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University carried out a bibliometric analysis of social science research on climate change and global environ-mental change as background information for this World Social Science Report 2013. This article describes how publications dealing with global environmental change were identified, the methodological challenges involved in producing a map of social science research on this domain, and the limitations of the analysis.

    • Glossary

      A period in which human activities have become a significant, even dominant force impacting the functioning of the Earth system. It is suggested that this began with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, a point in time which coincides with the first signals of increasing global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, as measured in air trapped in polar ice. The impact of human activity has begun to equal the measurable impact of geological forces, in speed and intensity, creating a novel situation that poses new questions and requires new ways of thinking and acting.

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