Climate Change and Societal
creates new challenges for a global society. Responding to climate change is a
complex process of social transformation. Climate change responses also
challenge the ways that human think about and interact with the environment and
each other. Thus effective responses to climate change involve complex
processes of a societal transformation that must creates an insight for
fundamental changes at different levels of society in order to cope with such a
multifaceted problem. In addition, we must point to the fact that the social
sciences always perform a dual role being a critical observer and solution
provider. Thus, the contribution of social sciences is crucial to the
understanding of these processes of change. This paper discusses the growing body
of knowledge on the climate change, its causes and consequences. Further it
talks about analytical and normative perspectives of societal transformations
in regard to climate change.
Keywords: Climate change, societal transformation and social
Climate change is
a change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns when that change lasts for an extended period of
time (i.e., decades to millions of years). Climate change may refer to a change
in average weather conditions, or in the time variation of weather around
longer-term average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors such as biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate
tectonics, and volcanic
eruptions. Certain human activities have also been
identified as significant causes of recent climate change, often referred to as
Reasons Why Climate
Change Is a Social Issue
Climate change is no longer only being
stressed by environmentalists. The effects of climate change will be economic,
social, and environmental and will alter people’s lives in various ways. So it is the time to facilitate
discussion on the social effects. Here are few reasons why climate change needs
to be considered a social issue:
1. Small farmers will feel the effects: Small farmers already struggle to get a fair price for
their goods, safeguard against weather & pests, and compete with
large-scale monoculture agricultural systems to stay in business. Climate
change is poised to make matters worse for farmers through a shift in climate
and agricultural zones, changes in production patterns due to higher
temperatures, and more extreme and changing precipitation patterns all of which
threaten crops. Such an upset has the potential to take away families’
livelihoods and main source of income as well as hurt entire communities who
depend on selling the fruit (and veggies) of their labor. Small farmers are an
integral part of our societies and, consequently, the effects of climate change
on farmers can threaten food supplies and security as well as increase
volatility in global food prices.
2. Rural and urban poor are the hardest hit: Poverty and inequality, which we have
been working to improve for decades, will only get worse with climate change
because disadvantaged groups do not have the resources to cope with effects
such as extreme flooding or droughts that may displace them or change their way
3. Unequal capacity for adaptation: Developing countries, who did not
significantly contribute to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,
will now be at an even greater disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the
effects of climate change. Developing countries already struggle with lack of
infrastructure and less technological and financial resources, among a number
of other concerns that will hinder their ability to adapt. Furthermore, these
countries are dependent on the resources they do have to deal with high rates
of poverty and income inequality, both of which, as we
stated, will be exacerbated with climate change.
4. Women, children, and the elderly are even more
vulnerable: Women, children, and the elderly who already tend to be a
vulnerable group in society will become even more so from climate change . In
rural areas of developing countries it is often the responsibility of women and
children to collect firewood and water, yet decreasing supplies is resulting in
more work and less time for other tasks as they now often have to go further
distances to find supplies. Children and the elderly are also more susceptible
to the health concerns associated with climate change such as heat-related ailments
from higher temperature, malnourishment due to increased strain on food
supplies/increased prices, and also disease that can be associated with
5. Communities will be forced to relocate: Many communities will be forced to move as they are
exposed to rising sea levels, extreme drought that puts strain on resources, or
even extreme rainfall that becomes the norm. Because the effects of climate
change are not simply environmental but economic and social as well, new and
existing policies must take a holistic approach and transcend disciplines,
sectors, and the public-private divide.
influencing Society’s responses to climate change
ability to successfully respond to climate change can be influenced by social
issues, like finance, food, health, education, migration, poverty and security.
In addition, other processes of societal change, such as globalisation,
urbanisation, demographic shifts, changes in world market structures, and
changes in energy demand and supply affect societies’ capacity to respond.
Climate change cannot be seen in isolation from the challenges that these
Social transformation is a shift in collective consciousness of a society – local, state, national or global – so that
reality is refined by consensus. In general, the concept of societal transformation in the social
sciences refers to the change of society’s systemic characteristics. This
incorporates the change of existing parameters of a societal system, including
technological, economic, political and cultural restructuring. Social transformations are such when they sustain over
time where attitudes and values are held in a completely new context (or
paradigm) based upon different assumptions and beliefs. The concept of
‘societal transformation’ refers to alterations of society’s systemic
characteristics and encompasses social, cultural, technological, political,
economic and legal change. There is an increasing social and political
awareness of the scale and seriousness of climate change and its potentially
devastating consequences. An Insight into it has also gradually emerged which
shows that fundamental changes have to take place at different scales and in
different sectors of society in order to cope with this multi-faceted problem.
Despite the growing scientific evidence, climate change, its causes,
consequences and possible response options remain contested by different groups
in society and are associated with different perceptions of uncertainty, risks
Responses to Climate Change include
Responses to climate change are not only
a matter of infrastructural adjustments, like building dikes, or technical
innovations such as implementing renewable energies. They also include
fundamental changes in our way of living, urban and regional planning, mobility
patterns, land and water use, production processes, consumption patterns,
nature conservation, and energy demand. Climate change responses also challenge
the ways that humans think about and interact with the environment and each
other. As such, all climate challenges are also societal challenges. Thus, it
is fair to say that effective responses to climate change involve complex
processes of societal transformations that should be studied as such.
aspects of transformation, include transformations related to economics;
politics; technical responses and infrastructure; urban areas; community-based
strategies; learning and leadership; social-ecological systems; values, norms
and worldviews; science and research; communication; and the arts. Linkages
between different scales and dimensions of transformation raise questions such
as; What do we actually mean by transformation, what does it entail and how
does it differ from our understanding of processes of change and transition?
What types of transformation are considered necessary? Is it possible to
innovate rapidly enough, and with sufficient intelligence, to transform
systems along pathways towards global justice, gender equity, and long-term
social and ecological resilience? Can this be done in a participatory and
deliberative manner? What factors
facilitate transformation in theory and in practice, across different systems,
sectors, and domains? What types of capacities and competencies need to be developed
to initiate and facilitate transformations that are both ethical and
sustainable? Where are the gaps in the current knowledge base?
Adaptations for Societal
Ø Protecting the poor and
vulnerable sections of society through an inclusive and sustainable development
strategy, sensitive to climate change.
Ø Achieving national growth
objectives through a qualitative change in direction that enhances ecological
sustainability, leading to further mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Ø Devising efficient and
cost-effective strategies for end-use Demand Side Management.
Ø Deploying appropriate
technologies for both adaptation and mitigation of greenhouse gases emissions
extensively as well as at an accelerated pace.
Ø Engineering new and innovative
forms of market, regulatory and voluntary mechanisms to promote sustainable
Ø Effecting implementation of
programmes through unique linkages, including with civil society and local
government institutions and through public private-partnerships.
Ø Welcoming international
cooperation for research, development, sharing and transfer of technologies
enabled by additional funding and a global IPR regime that facilitates
technology transfer to developing countries under the UNFCCC.
concerns, in this view, are clearly not about the environment alone. They
reflect instead economic priorities, financial and institutional arrangements,
energy security and local level developments. They seek to protect the poor and
the vulnerable as well as to engineer new and innovative markets.
Challenges of Climate Change and Societal Transformation
change is considered by many to be the greatest challenge to humanity. In the
absence of significant responses, climate change can lead to unprecedented
social and ecological impacts. Climate change responses include both measures
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to changes that are projected to
occur in the next decades. The concept of transformation is increasingly used
to describe the types of responses that are considered necessary. Transformation
can be defined as physical and/or qualitative changes in form, structure, or
meaning-making. It can also be understood as a psycho-social process involving
the unleashing of human potential to commit, care and effect change for a
better life. Transformation to a low-carbon, well-adapted global society
presents both opportunities and risks. For some, it is associated with a green
economy, opportunities for innovation and increased levels of well-being. For
others, it suggests a contraction of freedom that can result in chaos and
disruption. Still others see it as the agenda of powerful interests seeking to
take advantage of multiple crises. Transformation is thus not a neutral
process, and there are diverse values and interests at stake. There are many
theories, frameworks and approaches that provide insights on transformation.
The literature generally points to the need for transformation at the systems
level, which is dependent upon changes at multiple, interlinked levels of
human-environmental interactions, facilitated by factors such as reaction,
deliberation, innovation, learning, and leadership. In the face of climate
change these diverse approaches can be integrated in ways that generate
equitable, ethical and sustainable responses.
Role of Social
Sciences in Transformation
In view of the societal changes that any
response to climate change will inevitably entail, we argue that the social
sciences should have a more prominent role in climate change research. social
scientists can bring critical perspectives on cause, effect and controversy;
they can engage with policy processes; and help solve the multi-faceted
problems that climate change will inevitably make more visible, urgent, and
complex. Given the broad impact that climate change is expected to have on
societies and considering the scale of change needed, a social science
perspective on the social, political, economic, and cultural dimensions of
climate change is key to adaptation and mitigation efforts.
social science knowledge is an indispensable part of the global scientific,
policy and social mobilisation effort required. Its importance grows as the
effects of human actions on global conditions snowball and our understanding of
these processes deepens. In addition, we must point to the fact that the social
sciences always perform a dual role, being a critical observer and independent
messenger on the one hand (providing explanatory, evaluative and predictive
knowledge) and, on the other hand, being a co-designer of relevant and effective
solution strategies (providing prescriptive, strategic and instrumental
Socio-economic scenarios for societal
transformations in response to climate change and its consequences
of credible scenarios for societal changes in response to climate change is
relatively underexplored. The integration with climate change impact scenarios
is still in its infancy. Social scientists need to find out what the
socio-economic implications of transformations in response to climate change would
be. What do responses to climate change mean for local, national and global
dynamics in terms of: dominant modes of production and consumption; lifestyles
and livelihoods; global trade and economic growth imperatives; migration; and
socio-cultural orientations. Besides producing socio-economic scenarios, social
scientists also need to reflect on how the scenarios may be used. Are they used
to analyse and explain societal developments and to learn and develop insights
about complex interrelations and side-effects of measures? Or, could they also
be used for pursuing political agendas? Social scientists need to make a
purposeful decision as to whether and how they intend to act merely as analysts
in the field of climate change and societal transformations
transformation into low carbon, sustainable and resilient societies cannot
occur without some kind of governing to induce governments, businesses, NGOs
and citizens to transform their practices. Insights are needed into how and to
what extent different governance modes are effective, efficient and legitimate
in inducing societal transformations. Although mainstream literature emphasizes the
need for collaborative and deliberative modes of environmental governance ?
in order to be able to deal with the complex, multi-scale, cross-sectoral and
long-term aspects of environmental issues like climate change ?
there is still a special role to play for the state and international political
institutions in creating legally binding rules. Moreover, questions related to
the roles of governments, networks, markets and civil society, and questions
related to the feasibility and effectiveness of different types of policy
instruments and measures, are in need of answering. In addition, research
should unravel how governance processes are shaped, in
particular in terms of inclusive participation, deliberation, legitimacy,
efficiency and transparency, as well as the factors enabling and constraining
science climate research priorities
plausible socio-economic scenarios for societal transformations in
response to climate change and what do these scenarios entail, for whom
and with what consequences?
the processes through which societal transformations related to climate
change may take place and to what extent can they be influenced?
How is the
ability of societies to respond to climate change enabled and constrained
by other social, ecological and political dynamics and what strategies are
there to successfully deal with these interconnected dynamics?
of social and cultural meanings is climate change taking, and what is the
significance of these for understanding societal transformations in the
face of climate change? How and in what direction can such meanings be
the roles of specific concepts within the climate change debate, and what
are their implicit and explicit normative connotations?
are questions of social justice, participation, and the distributive
effects of climate changes addressed in current societal debates, policies
and legislation? How should they be addressed in transformative agendas?
constitutes the governance of societal transformations in light of climate
change? How is the governing of climate change at different levels being
accomplished and contested, by whom and through what means, and with what
consequences? What changes in modes of governance would be essential for
What is the
role of economy and finance in climate change mitigation and adaptation?
What new forms of climate finance and low carbon economies are necessary
To what extent
has the increased level and quality of climate science had an impact on
policy and societal decision-making, and how can this be explained? What
are the implications for organising effective science-policy interactions
in the future?
needed for further integration of social science knowledge in
agenda-setting and issue-framing in climate change research and
change creates new societal challenges, including the need to transform energy
systems away from a dependence on fossil fuels and the need to protect
citizens, business and nature from climate risks. Climate change is a complex
reality, which affects society at large. Understanding and responding to
climate change requires coordinated and large-scale efforts
across the globe – in research, knowledge dissemination, innovation and
governance. Strengthening the role of the social sciences in climate research
can contribute to our understanding of the processes of societal transformation
and how they can be related to climate change.
Climate social science is a relatively new field encompassing both
fundamental and applied research. Connecting different disciplinary approaches
in natural and social sciences will lead to research efforts of higher
scientific quality and societal relevance.
Furthermore, integrating science and society could increase the
reflexivity and relevance of climate research and will contribute to a better
application of knowledge and policy recommendations.
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