Climate change is often described as the central challenge of our time. Even teaching about climate change can be profoundly challenging. Some students feel that the problem is already hopeless and that runaway climate change is inevitable. Others are more optimistic, convinced that the problem can be solved through technological innovations or through radical social change. And others may believe that humans have no influence on the climate system. In Climate and Society: Transforming the Future, we present an integrative approach to climate change that is intended to reach students who come to this issue from different places, mindsets, and worldviews. We have tried to create a textbook that is both informative and empowering, providing students with concepts, analytical frameworks, and tools to make sense of this complex issue. We also emphasize a range of openings and opportunities for equitable and sustainable solutions.
Climate and Society: Transforming the Future is designed as a primary textbook for undergraduate courses on climate change and society. It is based on the premise that climate change is a critical social challenge, but also a pivotal opportunity for transformative change. It is meant for students and general audiences who are interested in learning more about the environmental, political, economic, and cultural aspects of climate change, and about broader and deeper approaches to climate change solutions. Our aim is to bring climate change into the curriculum through a hopeful and positive message, showing students that they matter and that they can make a difference.
Some key highlights of the book include:
a concise discussion of latest scientific findings on climate change, along with a detailed explanation of why “science is not enough” to solve the problem;
a discussion of diverse discourses on climate change, including an integrative discourse that bridges many of the divides between biophysical and social science-based approaches to the issue;
an in-depth exploration of the role of beliefs, values, and worldviews in shaping how people make sense of climate change and the solutions that they prioritize;
investigation of the complex social causes of climate change – from fossil fuel emissions to consumer mindsets to the political economy of the oil industry – as well as key options and strategies for mitigation;
discussion of the profound and real threat that climate change represents for social and ecological systems, vulnerable populations, and broader questions of human security;
examination of options for adaptation and enhancement of resilience in a changing climate;
a roadmap for engagement with transformations that emphasizes how our choices, decisions, and actions can play a critical role in transforming both climate and society.
Robin Leichenko is Professor of Geography at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Karen O’Brien is Professor in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo.