Cabot Institute blog

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

COP21 daily report: The politics and culture of climate change

Cabot Institute Director Professor Rich Pancost will be attending COP21 in Paris as part of the Bristol city-wide team, including the Mayor of Bristol, representatives from Bristol City Council and the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. He and others Cabot Institute members will be writing blogs during COP21, reflecting on what is happening in Paris, especially in the Paris and Bristol co-hosted Cities and Regions Pavilion, and also on the conclusion to Bristol’s year as the European Green Capital.  Follow #UoBGreen and #COP21 for live updates from the University of Bristol.  All blogs in the series are linked to at the bottom of this blog.
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The main road in Tuvalu in September 2015, photographed by Viliami Fifita a PhD student in Policy Studies, University of Bristol.  His travel was funded by an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award to assist the Tuvalu government measure poverty and living standards in the context of climatic change and rising sea levels.

The Climate Change (COP21) conference in Paris is one of the most important gatherings of politicians, civil servants, academic experts, journalists, business and civil society representatives of the 21st Century – over 50,000 people are expected to attend.   The need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions is clear as in 2015 global temperatures may rise to an average of 1oC above the pre-industrial level and atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels rose above 400 ppm for the first time in the past 800,000 years.  Some climate model results show that if greenhouse gas emission were stabilised, which would require a 60% reduction in global emissions immediately, then the World’s climate would still warm up to 1.6oC above the average pre-industrial level.

The natural sciences have made huge efforts to investigate the problem of climate change; unfortunately, the social sciences have not been so active.  This lamentable situation needs to change, so under the auspices of the IASQ (International Association on Social Quality) over 200 social scientists from around the world have signed the Sustainability Manifesto which argues that;
one-dimensional solutions cannot address multidimensional problems like those we currently face..... environmental change is still viewed primarily in physical science terms, whereby the (interrelationships of) socio-environmental, socio-economic, socio-political and socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability receive insufficient attention”.
Interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research is needed particularly to fill the current knowledge gaps about socio-political and socio-cultural aspects of sustainability.  A lot is now known about the environmental and economic aspects of climate change but this has not been sufficient to persuade many politicians or some sections of the public that major actions are required which may affect their lifestyles.  Research is needed into how best to overcome these socio-cultural and socio-political barriers to sustainability.

The Sustainability Manifesto has received the unanimous backing of the executive committee of the International Social Science Council (the World’s governing body for the social sciences under the auspices of UNESCO) and the ISSC president, Alberto Martinelli, has called on all “scientists and colleagues all around the world to support the Initiative”.  I have helped to draft the Sustainability Manifesto and have signed it on behalf of the University of Bristol.  


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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Professor David Gordon.  Prof Gordon studied environmental and climatic change for his PhD research and has worked at Bristol for 25 years in the School for Policy Studies.  He is the Director of the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research and was the editor of the European Journal of Social Quality for two years.
Prof David Gordon

This blog is part of a COP21 daily report series. View other blogs in the series below:

Monday 30 November: COP21 daily report


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