Social science research critical to tackle climate change

Published on 23 September 2019

On the 23 September, the United Nations hosts the 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York, designed to accelerate the commitments made by nations in the Paris Agreement and re-energise the urgent need to tackle the pressing challenge of our time – climate change.

At IDS, research has been undertaken for many years on the issue of sustainability and finding pathways to sustainable development, which can both benefit and protect people and planet.  And it is something which will have even greater prominence in the next IDS five year strategy, to begin in 2020.

The ‘Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability’ (STEPS) Centre

The STEPS Centre, which IDS hosts in partnership with the University of Sussex Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), has a mission to highlight, reveal and contribute to just and democratic pathways to sustainability that include the needs, knowledge and perspectives of poor and marginalised people. Its climate change research focuses on the impact of climate change on poor and marginalised people living in developing countries. Latest projects include the Pathways Network that is carrying out research in six countries around the world with local people to discover and create inclusive, practical solutions to different sustainability problems.

The TAPESTRY project, linked to STEPS, explores how local knowledge and ideas from the ‘front line’ of climate change can guide responses to climate disruption, based on lessons from India and Bangladesh.

The Rapid Transition Alliance

IDS is also part of the Rapid Transition Alliance, that brings together researchers, campaigners and diverse institutions to share stories and insights on rapid change. Through evidence, it aims to show that rapid change can be achieved across the economy and everyday lives.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls on all leaders attending the Climate Action Summit to come with “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050”, colleagues from IDS, STEPS Centre and Rapid Transitions Alliance, urge leaders to understand and acknowledge the need for social science, as well as natural science, in seeking solutions to urgent climate problems.

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