This is a guest post from Kate Neville, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and School of the Environment at the University of Toronto, and Matthew Hoffmann, a Professor in the Department of Political Science and Co-Director of the Environmental Governance Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.
Things are not good. We have twelve years before catastrophic climate change is completely unavoidable. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising like a “freight train.” In the face of bleaching and ocean acidification, coral reef conservation is falling short, with global declines of reef cover of 30-50% since the 1980s. Greenland’s ice sheet melting is “off the charts.”
Accompanying the barrage of bad climate news are articles discussing the despair that climate scientists are feeling in the face of their growing knowledge of climate catastrophe combined with the lack of movement they see on climate action (see e.g. here and here). They feel like they are shouting into the ether and no one is listening.
Most of these articles focus on natural scientists on the front lines of studying the dynamics and impacts of climate change itself. However, despair is not a scarce commodity in communities that care about climate change—social scientists who study climate politics are also subject to the existential angst that comes with knowing a catastrophe is looming and feeling helpless to stop it.
By studying the social, economic, and political dynamics that make progress on climate action difficult, social scientists bear the dual burden of both understanding what environmental damage is happening/projected and why the world is not responding to these urgent warnings. Continue reading