Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What should be the priority of climate change?

I was asked this question today. Climate change is one thing, among many, that all humans take part in and are effected by. This is how I responded. What is your answer?

Social scientists working on adaptation need to be respected as climatologists. There is still a gap in ideologies and practice, and this is detrimental. Because of the silo-ization between academic disciplines, we haven't figured out how to translate findings into public action (or inaction, in the case of changing human behavior to consume less). We want to fix our problems with engineering. We prioritize atmospheric science and hydrology. Meanwhile, our socio-economic systems determine our position in how we feel the impact of climate change and how we contribute to it. Those attracted to the "hard" sciences need to continue to do their great and important work, but there must be room at the table for those who are able to understand qualitatively how our large-scale infrastructure, technology and policies are effecting the people on the ground and especially those who make $2 a day or less. This will be hard. It might mean a sociologist will have to learn differentiaI equations and a meterologist might need to learn ethnography so they can share a common language and worldview. I see alot of lip service paid to "transdisciplinary" teams, but in practice I do not see it coming together. Until it does, humans will not be able to adapt; we will only be fighting a losing battle.

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