Climate Social Science: Towards a transformative science of climate change

The 5th Global Conference of the Initiative on Climate Adaptation Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences (ICARUS), June 30 – July 2, 2016. 

Governmental, social, and household level responses to future climate change must be undertaken despite substantial uncertainty about the location, intensity, frequency, and disruptive potential of many climate impacts and ongoing social transformations. At the same time, responses to climate change must occur in the context of policy systems and political relations that are often highly unequal and resistant to change. It is precisely for these reasons that greater systematic knowledge of the constraints on human responses to this variability assumes critical importance. Historical and contemporary patterns of vulnerability and adaptation, in contrast to inferences derived mechanistically from projected future climate impacts, share a key characteristic with the kind of human responses that are desirable: they occurred in response to climatic phenomena as these were experienced in concrete social, economic, cultural, and political settings.
Concrete human responses to climate change need greater scholarly and research attention. We invite papers for the 5th ICARUS Conference that advance a deeper understanding of how such responses emerge in specific settings, as derived through fine-resolution social science research. The crucible of responses to climate change – crafted by the multiple ways in which the past, the present, and the future overlap and interact – needs to be understood at different temporal and spatial scales of its contingent formation rather than being derived mechanistically purely through analysis of presumed climate impacts. 

In pursuing this broad vision of a transformative science of climate change, we suggest three themes for paper abstracts

  1. Security in diversity - Among scholars of livelihoods, diversity has long been viewed as a central determinant of livelihood security. We invite papers that trace the casual pathways through which diversity enhances livelihood security or undermines it. 
  2. Topographies of governance - In this theme, we focus on the networks of social and political relationships through which citizens gain access to resources and benefits from multiple state agencies. We invite papers that investigate how different relationships structure the ways that public resources and programmes influence vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.
  3. Technology and society We seek papers that attend to the social and institutional dimensions of technology. These include focus on institutional pathways for specific technologies to shape vulnerability to climate-related risks as well as the mechanisms through which technology is implicated in adaptation actions (information, efficiency, productivity).