Making the Case for the Social Sciences 3: Sustainability, the Environment and Climate Change
Launched at 61 Whitehall, 2nd November 2010
The real inconvenient truth: climate disasters will continue unless behaviour and attitudes change
To view a video of the discussion, click here. You will be taken to the Vimeo website.
It could take a few more disasters, along the lines of Hurricane Katrina, for governments worldwide to review their strategic approach to climate change, was the stark message presented at the launch of Making the Case for the Social Sciences no 3: Sustainability, the Environment and Climate Change. The latest issue in the Academy's series of booklets examining the contributions of the social sciences to our understanding of and policy decisions looks at climate change, the environment and sustainability.
Michael Meacher MP, former Minister for the environment, was speaking at the launch event, He voiced the concern that, thanks to the collapsed economy and the loss of momentum since the Copenhagen summit, we are now left with a society focused on short-termism, unable to look ahead rationally. “The emphasis now is wholly on survival,” said Meacher. “It is a very difficult landscape to promote the merits of sustainability.”
The event aimed to highlight the crucial need to change behaviours and attitudes towards sustainability and climate change. Chairing the event Professor Cary Cooper AcSS, Chair of the Academy said, “Even with the best science research in the world, unless we can change behaviours we are facing a serious problem that can only get worse.”
As with previous issues in the series, this report is made up of a series of case studies that provide prime examples of what social scientists have done and can do to support knowledge about and responses to environmental challenges. From vehicle emissions and flooding to navigating the best methods for sustainable food, health, water and energy supplies, the case studies reflect the multidimensional work that is going on across science and social science to address complex problems. Professor Richard Munton AcSS, emeritus professor of Geography at UCL and Professor Andrew Jordan AcSS oversaw the production and compilation of the report on behalf of the Academy and the British Psychological Society generously funded its production and launch.
Professor Andrew Jordan AcSS, Professor in Environmental Politics at the University of East Anglia and a contributor to the report, noted the vital need to integrate policy making across the different levels of governance – local, national, international - if policies are to work effectively. He also drew attention to how academic research engages with policy makers and helps the move to Big Government by providing a bridge between institutions and civil society.
Professor Andy Stirling, Director of research at the Science and Technology Policy Research unit at the University of Sussex and a contributor to the report, emphasised the key role social scientists can play in international events such as the forthcoming 2012 Rio Plus 20 Earth Summit. He said “this is an axis for social scientists to engage – this is about social change – where social sciences play a major role.” He talked about not just considering dissemination at the end of the research process, but rather the vital importance of engaging through the process, working with advocacy networks, informing policy programmes such as the BIS Foresight programme, and working globally across disciplines to tackle complex challenges.
Sir John Beddington (above), the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, also emphasised the role social scientists can play in shaping the government’s responses to complex challenges such as these. “Behavioural change could make an enormous difference to meet climate change goals,” he said.