Can our ancestors school our scientists on how to solve climate change?

by Karalee Corley

In our current, complex state of struggle to mitigate climate change, the question begs to be asked: can science alone offer the knowledge to resolve climate change? Maybe not. Science instructs us to know and observe processes such as climate change in the natural world. We have done so for decades, yet the data reported on the negative changes in our environment cannot apparently, by itself, inspire societal change. In a recent article, Smithsonian geographer R.D.K. Herman (2016) offers vehement argument, and extensively evidenced non-scientific knowledge, that the scientific disciplines will not resolve the issue of our decaying planet on their own. The author asserts that the predominance of capitalism and colonialism in our recent history has fostered a societal one-sidedness and overconfidence in our scientific outputs. Continue reading

The Need for Social Sciences in Climate Policy

by Becky Strong

In 2015, David G. Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego wrote about the importance of looking into the social sciences when seeking to implement policies about climate change. Victor believes that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has become irrelevant to climate policy due to its focus on only the most well-known facts about climate change and avoidance of controversy.
He believes that in order to find insights that truly matter regarding climate change, one must look beyond the natural sciences. Continue reading

Reaching Out to Today’s Youth

by Brina Jablonski

A major issue in the twenty-first century is the lack of youth involvement in climate change discussion. The members of today’s youth are the future leaders of tomorrow. If they have no interest or understanding of the severe climate problems at hand then they will never take the initiative to make a change. Senebel et al. (2014) explain how people tend to honor set goals, pay close attention to what their peers are doing, and are strongly persuaded by people they like. Thus they concluded that social media is the most effective form of persuasion and communication with the public. With the use of digital media, information will be able to reach many, diverse populations as well as shift social norms, and reduce climate change. The article analyzed the results of a test designed to understand how social media can help encourage today’s current youth to play an active role in preventing further climate change through energy reduction. Continue reading

Climate Change Adaptation: Lessening the Perceived Risk of Climate Change?

by Brendan Busch

As the future effects of climate change become more certain, it is clear that adaption to new climate conditions will be a necessity. However, will these plans for adaptation dissuade people from trying to prevent climate change? In their article “Does Learning About Climate Change Adaptation Change Support For Mitigation?” Amanda R. Carrico, Heather Barnes Truelove, Michael P. Vandenbergh, and David Dana (researchers and professors at the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of North Florida, Vanderbilt University Law School, and Northwestern University School of Law, respectively) attempt to determine if a focus on adaptation has adverse effects on the public’s support of preventative climate change measures. Through psychological experimentation, this study tests the hypothesis held by some policy makers and scholars that learning about potential adaptation techniques may reduce the public’s perceived risk about climate change, and thus lessen their willingness to fight against it. Continue reading

Changing Climate and the Pressures on Women of Rural Mexico

by Russell Salazar

Subsistence agriculture is a difficult practice in a world of uncertainty in temperatures and rainfall, and food security in some areas is a primary concern. A study by Bee (2014) looks at potential effects of the changing climate on the lives of women in rural Mexico, and gains insight into the choices they make given their “socio-political, economic and environmental contexts”. Eighty-eight percent of the female interviewees claimed to be engaged in “unpaid domestic work”, which includes the provision of daily food for the household through crop farming, namely maize and beans. Bearing the burden of household food security against unfavorable climates, these women act as teachers and decision-makers. They have learned to adapt to the weather, gaining knowledge about food sources and cultivation and passing that knowledge on to their children. Continue reading

Anthropology in Climate Change

by Yijing Zhang

Barnes (2013) strongly suggests that natural scientists cannot solve the climate issue alone even if they have understood every scientific aspect of it. Therefore, anthropologists can further enrich the study of climate change in three ways, particularly when the climate debate involves social, cultural and political topics.

The first way to improve the climate study is to apply ethnographic insights. Instead of focusing on one specific community, Barnes argues that the climate change requires a broader perspective. Extending subjects from local places to international environments, and from science departments to companies and non-profit organizations, Barnes suggests that anthropology research is able to study how pure scientific knowledge could be incorporated into policies. By studying the language used in communication and debate, anthropologists can analyze how scientific knowledge is conveyed to the public.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a typical example of how scientific knowledge is interpreted. Research, which focused on how decisions were made and how presentation affects the debate in the panel, finds that anthropological elements help participants in the debate to think more broadly and help them to include cultural and social factors.

The second perspective that anthropology can offer is historical. As climate change is studied in a very long time scale, anthropologists suggest that the debate topics in environment and climate are not new. Since the time of Hippocrates, people have pondered whether humans can control environmental change. In addition, when scientists are talking about impacts of climate change on susceptible groups, they are, in fact, talking about uneven development processes in different countries, which has been a frequently discussed topic over the years. Hence, Barnes argues that discussions on past topics can effectively improve present mitigation or adaptation strategies.

The last way that anthropology can help is offering a holistic view. In contrast to solely emphasizing on the big picture, Barnes suggests that it is better to think about how new policies can influence people’s livelihood. Though people’s living quality, determined by politic environment and cultural influence is difficult to quantify, it is still important to address these issues, and anthropological approach helps to prevent an overemphasis on climate change data, bringing social responses into the picture.

Barnes, J., et al. (2013). “Contribution of anthropology to the study of climate change.” Nature Climate Change 3: 541-544.

TAGS: Yale school of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale Climate & Energy Institute, anthropology, fieldwork methodology, climate change.



Increasing vulnerability of Island Communities as a result of Climate Change

by Margaret Loncki

With the current trajectory of global Climate change, Island communities will be the first to be noticeably affected. Heather Lazrus describes the vulnerabilities of island communities as well as their ability to adapt to environmental changes brought about by climate change. Along with altered precipitation and storm patterns, and rising global temperatures, island communities face land loss due to the rise of sea levels and may soon face forced migration as a result. Lazrus also explains that many societies have portrayed small island communities as helpless victims of large developed nations’ irresponsibility and the climate changes that this irresponsibility has brought about. Lazrus makes the point that small island communities are not beyond saving and if climate change is correctly handled, migration will become unnecessary. Continue reading