Cool heads for a hot world – Social sciences under a changing sky


Journal Article


Cool heads for a hot world – Social sciences under a changing sky


Agrawal, Arun
Lemos, Maria Carmen
Orlove, Ben
Ribot, Jesse




Global Environmental Change

Vol (No), pp

22(2), 329–331


Three decades of debates related to the urgency of climate-change and lack of action during the same time period have led to a growing recognition of the need for social-scientific analyses to inform public opinion, motivate decisions, and strengthen climate adaptive and mitigative capacities (IPCC 2009; Stern 2006, WDR 2010). Those studying climate and its impacts and decision makers expected to respond to climate impacts have both come to accept that the ensemble of problems associated with a changing climate cannot be understood, analyzed, or addressed without the vital contributions of the social sciences. Indeed, despite limited funding (NRC 2009), social scientists have made major contributions to thinking about climate change over the past several years. This contribution has spanned from integrated assessments of drivers and risk, to theorizing about vulnerability, adaptation, and mitigation, to inquiring into the extent to which climate change and responses are likely to be equitable, just, or ethically acceptable. Economics has been the most prominent contributor in this regard, perhaps because its modeling modes of inquiry and statistical analysis of global datasets resonate more easily with the modeling and statistical approaches used by physical climate scientists. Many other social sciences have also contributed and helped reframe how to think about and analyze climate change. The growing number of peer-reviewed articles, journals and scholarly networks, and policy reports dedicated to the human dimensions of climate change attest to the rapid growth and increasing robustness of the field.


Agrawal, A., Lemos, M. C., Orlove, B., & Ribot, J. (2012). Cool heads for a hot world – Social sciences under a changing sky. Global Environmental Change, 22(2), 329–331. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.02.003