Socio-cultural dimensions of climate change: charting the terrain
We have reached a crucial turning point in debates around climate change. A well established scientific consensus regarding the physical causes, dynamics, and at least many likely implications of anthropogenic climate change has thus far failed to result in any substantial movement towards mitigation. For many, then, the most urgent questions regarding climate change are now socio-cultural ones, such as: how do people come to hold and act on certain beliefs regarding environmental conditions and processes; how do institutional forms and histories shape and constrain the views and options of various sorts of actors; and what are relationships among fossil fuels, climate change, and the historical geographies and future trajectories of capitalism? Far from being simpler than physical and life science questions, these social science questions introduce entirely new sorts of actors, dynamics, and methodological challenges into this already complex and dynamic domain. This special issue takes up these topics. In this essay, we chart some of the major contours of contemporary social science thinking regarding climate change and introduce the articles in the special issue. We begin by examining work, from political science and scholarship on the commons, that foregrounds questions of sovereignty, territoriality, and cooperation with respect to environmental governance. Then we examine work from neoclassical economics and radical political economy, which frame climate change in terms of externalities, or contradiction and crisis, respectively. Finally, we examine the rapidly proliferating work exploring how individuals think and feel about these issues, emphasizing concepts of risk, communication, and governmentality.
McCarthy, James; Chen, Chery; López-Carr, David; and Walker, Barbara Louise Endemaño, "Socio-cultural dimensions of climate change: charting the terrain" (2014). Geography. 153.