Society and Climate Change: Sociological Perspectives

Society and Climate Change: Sociological Perspectives

Society and Climate Change: Sociological Perspectives

Society and Climate Change: Sociological Perspectives

Synopsis

Climate change is one of the most critical issues of the twenty-first century, presenting a major intellectual challenge to both the natural and social sciences. While there has been significant progress in natural science understanding of climate change, social science analyses have not been as fully developed. Climate Change and Society breaks new theoretical and empirical ground by presenting climate change as a thoroughly social phenomenon, embedded in behaviors, institutions, and cultural practices. This collection of essays summarizes existing approaches to understanding the social, economic, political, and cultural dimensions of climate change. From the factors that drive carbon emissions to those which influence societal responses to climate change, the volume provides a comprehensive overview of the social dimensions of climate change. An improved understanding of the complex relationship between climate change and society is essential for modifying ecologically harmful human behaviors and institutional practices, creating just and effective environmental policies, and developing a more sustainable future. Climate Change and Society provides a useful tool in efforts to integrate social science research, natural science research, and policymaking regarding climate change and sustainability. Produced by the American Sociological Association's Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change, this book presents a challenging shift from the standard climate change discourse, and offers a valuable resource for students, scholars, and professionals involved in climate change research and policy.

Excerpt

Robert J. Brulle and Riley E. Dunlap

Rapid anthropogenic climate change is dramatically disrupting the biophysical conditions that make Earth a suitable home for all natural species, including humans, and thus threatens the future of society. It is associated with increases in “natural” disasters; precipitously shifting weather patterns; threats to availability of potable water, food, and shelter; shifts in the range and prevalence of disease; species extinction; and the destabilization of ecosystems on which we depend (AAAS Climate Science Panel 2014). As with many environmental threats, the most immediate and severe effects of rapid climate change—often termed “climate disruption” (e.g., Pimm 2009)—are likely to fall upon the most socially vulnerable communities in both the United States and globally—those that are already experiencing economic, political, and cultural marginalization. These impacts include increasing conflicts over natural resources, social destabilization, population migration, and extensive adverse health consequences.

Our knowledge base about the global climate system has expanded quickly, led by the natural sciences community. Since the inception of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) in 1986, and the subsequent formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, a vast array of data has been collected and research from numerous scientific disciplines integrated into a comprehensive field known as Earth Systems Science (Mooney, Duraiappah, and Larigauderie 2013). The sociologist Bruno Latour (2011:6) characterized the body of knowledge regarding climate change as “probably one of the most beautiful, sturdy and complex ever assembled.” The results of these efforts, as regularly summarized by . . .

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