Claim: Social Science can Solve the Climate Crisis

by Eric Worrall at

Making do with less: “… We can repair and recreate our relationships with the Earth and the consumption that has gotten us to this point. …”

The world is not moving fast enough on climate change — social sciences can help explain why

Published: March 11, 2024 12.10am AEDT
Fayola Helen Jacobs Assistant Professor of urban planning, University of Minnesota
Candis Callison Associate professor, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, and Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies, University of British Columbia
Elizabeth Marino Associate Professor of Anthropology, Oregon State University

The first is that climate change has the potential to exacerbate health, social and economic outcomes for Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC) and low-income communities. The second is that social systems and institutions — including governmental, cultural, spiritual and economic structures — are the only places where adaptation and mitigation can occur.

There are a range of outcomes that may stem from climate related disasters with a vast inventory of what is possible. There are also hopeful examples that point the way to rich collaborations and problem solving. For example, Tulsa, Okla. was the most frequently flooded city in the U.S. from the 1960s into the 1980s, but a coalition of concerned citizens came together with the city government to create a floodplain management plan that serves as a model for other cities.

There is an adage that says in order to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Make no mistake, climate change is the most urgent issue of our time. However, moving quickly and carelessly will serve only to re-entrench existing social, economic, political and environmental inequalities. 

Instead, we must look at other ways of being in the world. We can repair and recreate our relationships with the Earth and the consumption that has gotten us to this point. We can pay attention and listen to global Indigenous peoples and others who have cared for this earth for millennia

We must be more creative with our solutions and committed to ensuring that all, and not just a privileged few, are able to live in a better world than the one in which they were born into. Technological approaches alone will not achieve this goal. To build a better world we need the social sciences.