Climate Crisis: Social Science Crisis

by Larry Lohmann

first published 9 July 2008

 Two decades ago, pollution trading seemed to the small clique of US traders, economists and non-governmental organisations that had begun developing the idea to have the potential to recruit industry to the environmentalist cause, since it was designed to save costs for big polluters and give them breathing space before they would have to cut their emissions. In Kyoto in 1997, the idea was successfully pushed onto UN climate negotiators by the US delegation, and a cluster of carbon markets today constitutes the major international response to global warming.

The enormous commercially-oriented social and political infrastructure that has resulted has not only diverted resources toward reinforcing richer societies' addiction to fossil fuels; it has also helped narrow the range of social science inquiry into ways of tackling climate change. Today, this draft chapter suggests, it is less a lack of natural science knowledge that is hampering progress on global warming than a lack of social science knowledge.