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Environment and climate change submitted draft 130529

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Environment and climate change submitted draft 130529

  1. 1. Environment and climate change 1 Background on climate change The contributionof greenhousegases(GHGs) suchas carbon dioxide(CO2),methaneandwatervapour to the ‘greenhouse effect’thatraisesthe Earth’stemperature tohabitable levelswas demonstrated by JohnTyndall in1859. Inthe 1890s, SwedishscientistSvante Arhenniuscalculatedthe effectof doubling atmosphericCO2to be an increase of global temperaturesof around5°Celsius(broadlyinlinewith currentestimates). Emissions of CO2rose bya factorof 16, to around35 billiontonnesperannum, between1900 and 2008 (US EPA data). Polarice recordsshowthat the longrun variationoverthe 740,000 years priorto the industrialisedperiodhadbeenbetween180 and280 parts permillion(ppm).Inthe Springof 2013, the concentrationof CO2 passed400 ppm.Whenthe contributionof methane andotherGHGs is added,the effectiveconcentrationishigherstill. Climate policyappearstohave hadlittle ornoeffectonthistrend. These increases inatmosphericCO2include increasinguse of fossil fuels, deforestation,alsoagricultural practices. There isreasonto expectsome ‘feedbackeffects’(forinstance the release of methanefrom beneathRussian tundras) thatcouldsuddenlyacceleratewarming.Some opposingfeedbackeffects(e.g. if cloudcover were toincrease reflectionof radiationfromthe Sun) are alsolikely.Nonetheless,there is broad consensusthatincreasesof between2°Cand4°C intemperature are likely withinthe 21st century,thatthese will have seriousconsequences onthe wellbeingof humans,oneconomiesandon ecosystems, andthatthe greaterthe warmingthe more seriousthe impactswill be. The water cycle will be particularlyaffectedbyclimatechange (e.g.byfloodsanddroughts),withknock- on impactson the designof buildings,onagriculture,andinmanyothereconomicandsocial areas.The impactof temperature onecosystemsislikelytobe verysignificantasspeciestravel towardsthe poles (or to higherelevations) atdifferingspeeds, leadingtowhatUK scientistSirJohnLawtoncalled ‘unravellingthe fabricof nature’. Climate policy addressestwoconcurrentandurgent transformations: adaptation (adaptinghumanand natural systemsforthe climaticchangesthatare expectedandthatmay already have begun) and mitigation (reducingemissionsof GHGs and other‘forcingactivities’soasto stabilise temperatures). Both are essential:adaptation because delaysinthe climate systemmeanthatclimate change will continue fordecadesevenif all emissionswere tostoptomorrow,mitigationbecausechangesmuch beyond2°C maybe beyondourspecies’capacitytocope. Both will be extremelychallenging.Humansocio-technical systems (e.g. settlements, employment, waterdistributionanduse, distribution,agriculture,energysystems) have typicallybeendesignedwith broad stabilityin climate(asopposedtoshort-termweatherfluctuations) andwitheasy availabilityof energyastaken-for-grantedassumptions.Thismeansthatcurrentsocial andeconomicbehaviouristoa large extent‘locked-in’topoorlyadapted,highenergypatterns.This,alongside the huge scale of change that isrequired,iswhychange appearstobe sodifficult. 2 The potential relevance of action research There are compellingreasonswhyactionresearch couldassistthese transformations.Forinstance:
  2. 2. a. There isa strongethical alignment,withPeterReason andothers havingarguedthathumanand ecosystemflourishingisatthe core of action research. b. Reflectivepractice, acore aspectof actionresearch,iscrucial whencallingtaken-for-granted assumptionsintoquestion. c. Researchshowsthatworkingtogetherwithotherpeopleisvery stronglycorrelatedwithpro- environmental behaviour.Actionresearchasan inherentlyrelational andaction-oriented discipline,providesmanyopportunitiesto facilitatethis. d. Research alsoshows thatfindingasense of ‘agency’(i.e.findingresponsesthatare personally meaningful inresponse toinformationaboutpotentiallydistressingissuessuchasclimate change) iscrucial to people movingfromsuppressionof awarenessto engagement.Reflective practicestypicallyusedbyactionresearcherscanhelppeopletoaccesstheirdeeper motivations. e. Newresponses toclimate change are veryurgent: actionresearchers’willingnessto riskcreating newknowledge,ratherthanmerely researchwhatalreadyhappens,isessential. f. Kurt Lewin’sinsightsthatchange isfacilitatedmore byidentifyingandremovingbarriersthanby reinforcingenablersandthatthe bestwayof understandingasystemistoattemptto change it (because hiddenandperhapsunconsciousbarriersthatreinforce the statusquobecome more evident) show the benefitof actionandreflectioncyclesin addressinglarge scale changes.. 3 Some major challenges to action researchers Nonetheless,despite the apparentpotential, thereisasyetrelatively little evidence of action researchers engaginginasatisfactoryway withthisissue.There are some importantbarriersthatneed to be overcome thatmightexplainthis. Some are presentinotherfields(e.g.in workonHIV/AIDS) but not necessarilytothe same degree,othersmaybe unique toworkonclimate change.The followingare amongthe more intractable. Needto work beyondparticipants’ current experience We are still at the very earlieststagesof climate change.Whilethe earliestimpacts(forinstance, flooding) are probablyalreadyhappening, itisasyetdifficultto climate signal fromweathernoise. Potential majorthresholds(e.g.methanerelease,rainforestcombustion,majorchangestoocean currentssuch as the Gulf Stream) still lie inthe future. Thismeansthatmanyof the more significant impactsand energyconstraints towhichresponsesneedtobe found are notyet withinhuman experience buthave tobe encounteredconceptually,e.g.throughglobalclimate models.Manyattempt to overcome thisbyengagingwithcurrentextremeweather, orwithincrementalenergyconservation measures,andthese maybe skilful firststeps.However,actionresearchersneedtobe clearthat these are far fromrepresenting adequate engagementwiththe issue of climate change. Repressedawareness There isconsiderable evidence thatthere isconsiderablerepressionof awarenessof climate change.For instance,astudyin Hampshire inthe UK for the ESPACEproject showedthatthose mostat riskof flooding(one of the mostcommonclimate impacts) were(withhighstatistical confidence) significantly lesslikelytothinkthattheywere at riskfromclimate-relatedflooding. Againactionresearchersare likelytofindconsiderabledifficultyinfindingco-researcherswhoactuallywishtoengage withthe subjectmatterinany depth. Radically differentcapacity Evenwhenthere issome awarenessthatclimate issuesmaybe relevant,people’scapacitytoengage withthemvariessignificantlyandisoftenextremelylow. Several surveys(forexample,of almost2,000
  3. 3. organisationscarriedoutforDefra, the UK EnvironmentMinistry,in2012-13 and of Europeancities conductedforthe EU in 2012) have demonstratedthat organisationalcapacityvariessignificantlyand that highcapacity remainsvery rare. It is still more rare inthe general population,where the issue of climate change isoftenconfusedwithissuessuchasrecyclingorozone depletion. Thismeansthatthe ‘framing’of projectsis oftenata frustratinglylow level.Actionresearchers,tothe extentthatthey themselvesare of sufficientcapacityare likelytoneedconsiderable time toreachinterestingquestions. Differenttimescales(people,infrastructure decisions,ecosystems) Actionresearchersare usedtoworkingwithpredominantlysocialsystems,whereexamplessuchas the fall of the BerlinWall,orof Apartheid,show thattransformations evenof seemingly intractable problemsmayoccur remarkablyquickly.However,climatechange actionsneedtotake accountof two verydifferentsystemsthatintertwinewithpeople’sbehaviourincomplex ways andthatradically challenge notionsof rapidchange. First,people’sactions bothconditionandare conditionedby long-lastingtechnical systemssuchas energyproductionanddistribution,transportation, publicandprivate buildings,irrigation anddrainage. Whendecisionsonthese are takenbadly,lateractions canbe ‘locked-into’aparticulartrajectoryfor manydecadesor evencenturies. Humanbehaviourthenbecomes predominantlypath-dependent,with little ornopotential for‘emergence’.The challengeforactionresearchersand otherchange agentsisto identifysuchdecisionsearly andthentobuildthe necessarycapacitytotake themwell veryquickly. Second,such‘socio-technical’decisions theninfluencenatural systems,forwhichthe timescalesrange froma fewdecadestomanymillennia. The impactof measuresonnatural systems,whichunderpin botheconomiesandsocial systems,isacrucial test,butof course,these lack‘voice’andcan be very difficulttounderstand. Both the complexityof interactions(betweenaparticulardecisionandthe widersocial andecological contextwithinwhichitsits) andthe extendedtimescalesmake evaluationof anyparticulardecision extremelychallengingandprobablyunrealisticinmostcases. These factorsmake the verynotionof ‘learningfromexperience’verychallenginginaclimate change context.Again,the actionresearcher may have little optionbuttorely onsurrogate measures(e.g. complex conceptual modelsof energyor of climate impacts) toevaluate outcomes. Needto work across scales Actionand consequenceonclimate issuesare notonlyverygreatlyseparatedbytime butalsobyspace. A gram of CO2 emittedinBeijinghasexactlythe same ‘climateforcing’effectasone emittedinWichita, Kansas. A carbon tradingscheme createsanimmediate incentiveto‘offshore’carbonintensive manufacturingtounregulatedjurisdictions,withpotentialincreasesincarbonintensity.Eventhe effectivenessof savingenergyisquestionedinreducingcarbonemissions since moneysavedis then investedin carbon-generatingactivities. Onthe adaptationside,the pavingof afrontgarden upriver contributestofloodingfardownstream,movingtoamore resilientsupplychainmayradicallyreduce the capacity of discardedsuppliers. In otherwords, evenatthe smallestscale, climate change actions cannotbe separatedfromtheir systemiccontext,butthiscontextissovastthat evenintheoryitwouldbe impossible todraw an adequate boundarytocontainit.Again,learningfromactionandconsequence isprofoundlychallenged. Extreme multi-disciplinarity,butwithgenerallylowstatus for the social sciences It wouldclearlybe naïve tothinkthat social sciencescancontribute muchinisolationwhenevencrucial processskills(suchasreflectiononoutcomes) cannotbe separatedfromthe physical orengineering context.Norcan technical solutions be pursuedwithoutconsiderationof the social context: if climate change to be containedandreversed, thenmany peopleneedtobehave differently.
  4. 4. Climate change researchmusttherefore be aninherentlymulti-disiplinaryendeavour. Itisnatural, probablyappropriate,thatnatural scientistsandengineersshouldplaya leadingrole inresponsesto climate change. Foractionresearchers, whomaysometimes considerthemselves tobe at the edges evenof social science,itmay be hard to enter,letalone find influence within,potentiallytransformative projects. Tothe extentthattheydo,theircontinuedinfluence dependsonthemalsobeingable to bridge the divide betweennatural andsocial sciences. 4 Examples of practice The examplesof actionresearchinthe climate change fieldcanbe evaluatedagainstthe extenttowhich theyengage the challenges above. 1. Firstperson approaches. Climate change isanissue of such scale and urgencythat firstpersonaction and reflectioncyclesinvestigatingthe genericquestion,‘how canIimprove mypractice?’are manifestly insufficient:the challenge isnotonlytoreduce one’sownemissionsbuttounderstandand intentionally to transformthe systemsthatgovernone’sownemissions,andthose of multitudesof otherpeople. Nonetheless,firstperson reflectivepractices are aninvaluabletool forchange agentsonany issue, includingclimate change.Examplesof this,some of whichare inthe climate field,were providedby workin the Centre forActionResearchinProfessional Practice (CARPP) atthe Universityof Bathinthe UK, whichisdescribedelsewhere inthisvolume. 2. Secondperson approaches helpactionresearchers support,collaborate withandsometimeslead otherswhoworkin thisfield.Whenusedalongsidesympatheticreflectionprocesses,suchpracticesare helpful inidentifyingandmakingsense of barrierstochange. They are perhapsthe core of action researchforclimate change,since fewactionstorespondtoan issue of thisscale can possiblybe effectiveatan individual level. a. Participative action inquiry (PAR). Paul Mapfumo andcolleaguesusedPARinGhanaand Zimbabwe toempowercommunitiestomobilise andself-organise inrespondingtoclimatic changes.AgaininGhana, Blane Harveyandcolleaguescollaboratedwithlocal radiostationsto supportresearchbyfarmersintothe challengesof soil erosionandsealevel rise.Bothprojects successfullyidentifiedconstraintstochange, potentially movingthe researchagendaforwards. Notsurprisingly,bothalsofocusedonimpactsthatare alreadybeingexperiencedanddidnot engage particularlywithfuture changes. b. Learning histories. PeterReason ledamulti-universityUK-Government-fundedcollaboration withindustrial partnerstoinvestigate how toaccelerate transformationtoa low-carbon economy,alsousingalearninghistoryapproach. While providingsignificantinsightstowards the challenge of large-scaletransformations,the projectwas subjecttothe inherentlimitation of the learninghistoryapproach,thatitdoesnotfullytake the ‘actionturn’. c. Co-operative inquiry.DavidBallard undertookasubstantial andprotracted collaborative inquiry witha group of managersintohow a majorUK constructioncompanycouldrespondtothe challenge of sustainability,focusingonclimate issues.Participants,incyclesof actionand reflection usingarange of reflectivepractices, radicallychangedtheirpositiononthe issue and were successful instimulatingastep-change improvementwithintheirorganisation.However, while progress wasconsolidatedafterthe project,the learningprocessitself didnotbecome self-sustainingwithinthe company. 3. Third personapproaches. Thirdpersonapproaches can potentially enable learning(e.g.about barriersto change) to be taken fromthe projectto the systemiclevel (e.g.fromthe companytothe industry,fromthe local tothe national orinternational). Theyare essential toeffective actionresearch
  5. 5. for climate change. Howeverthere are challengesbothindevisingthe appropriatelearning ‘architecture’andinhandinglearningoverfromthe insight-richbutmore case-basedworldof action researchto the more methodologicallyconservativedomainof mainstreamsocial andnatural science. Several of the secondpersonapproaches describedabove attemptedtotake learningtothe third personlevel,with all failingfordifferentreasons.Forinstance,the PARapproachesquicklyuncovered constraints(e.g.strongvestedinterests) thatwere difficulttoengage with.The projectledbyPeter Reasonon lowcarboninnovationwaspartof a mainstreamsocial science researchinitiative managed by the UK ResearchCouncils.Although the projectwas well received,the inter-projectlearning architecture wasnotsufficientlydevelopedtoallow emergingresearchquestionstomove forwards. DavidBallard,as an independentresearcheratthat stage,didnot findthe institutional partnerstocarry emergingresearchquestionstothe nextroundof inquiry. However,there have beensomeinterestingexamplesof large-scale projectsfromoutsidethe action researchcommunitythat come close to 3rd personactionresearchapproaches:  The EU-funded multi-country SLIMproject (Social Learningforthe IntegratedManagingand sustainable use of wateratcatchmentscale) of 2001-04 was one of these.‘Social learnng’was seenasthe ‘collective learningprocessthatcantake place through interactionsamongmultiple interdependentstakeholderswhenproperfacilitation,institutional supportandaconducive policyenvironmentexist’.Actioninpursuitof learningisactivelyencouragedandmuchof the approach wouldbe familiartoactionresearchers.Thisprojecthelpedtoestablishthe EU’s ‘WaterFrameworkDirective’whicharguablybringssocial learningintoavitallyimportant aspectof policymaking thatisdeeplyaffectedbyclimate impacts.  The Netherlandsisamongthe nations mostthreatenedbyclimateimpacts.The Government- fundedandambitious‘KnowledgeforClimate’programmecomesasclose asany initiative toa full thirdpersonactionresearchprogramme (althoughthistermwouldnotbe recognised). Actioninquiryiscarriedout ina setof ‘Hotspots’acrossthe nation where issuesare reviewedin depthbypractitionerswhoare supportedby natural andsocial scientistsof variousdisciplines, but notdirerctedbythem. Long termclimate resilience isexplored alongside currentextreme weatherorshorter-termtrends. Learningflowshave beenstronglyestablished,withthe researchagendabeingupdated overtime throughlivelyparticipativeconferences. 5 Opportunities for action researchers to contribute The argumentsand examples above show thatactionresearchhave alreadycontributedinseveral importantways butthat its full value hasnotyethave beenrealised. Theysuggestthatthe following challenges are amongthose that needtobe addressedtobuild uponthisearlywork: a. Findingwaysof engagingwith future anddistantclimate impactsthatlie beyondthe experience of participantsinprojects. b. Focusingresearchontolonger-termdecisions,whichpotentiallyleave the participantsand future citizensatriskif these opportunitiesforchange are not realised. c. Buildingcollaborativeworkingrelationshipswithresearchersfromotherdisciplines,including natural scientistsandothersocial researchers,e.g.witheconomistsandthose active inthe EnvironmentandBehaviourfield. d. Engagingwithpolicymakersatvariouslevels(e.g.inministries,incities,inindustries) tohelp designandfacilitate large scale programmesof research,designingandfacilitatingthe learning architecture thatcan potentiallyintegrate manydifferentstreamsof researchtodevelopmore systemicapproachestochange.
  6. 6. Cross references You’ll haveto identify links to these,Patricia (since I do not know thefull contentsof the book). Iassume thatHilary’s workwill be relevant,asalso JudiM’sand perhapsalso Peter’sand the article on sustainabilityand also on environmentaljustice.(Hopefully you’llneed only this many,orfewer,words!). Further reading The science of climate change is updatedperiodicallybythe Intergovernmental PanelforClimate Change.Their(substantial) reportsmaybe downloadedfrom http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml. Accessible butauthoritativesummariesof climate science are providedby ‘GlobalWarming:The CompleteBriefing’ by JohnHoughton (4th Edition,Cambridge UniversityPress,2009) andby ‘Climate Change:A Beginner'sGuide’byEmilyBoydandEmmaTompkins (Oneworldpublications,2010). The needfortransformative responsestoawarmerclimate issummarisedin ‘Rethinking Adaptation for a 4°C World’ (M. StaffordSmith, L.Horrocks etal, Philosophical Transactionsof the Royal SocietyA, 369(1934), 196-216, 2011). The environmentandbehaviourliterature is summarised in‘Using learning processesto promote changeforsustainabledevelopment’(Ballard,D.,ActionResearch,3(2),135-156, whichincludesan account of a collaborative inquiryintoclimate change responses inindustry. ‘InsiderVoices:Human Dimensionsof Low Carbon Technology’(PeterReason,Gill Colemanetal, Universityof Bath,2009), includessignificantdiscussionof actionresearchinthe contextof climate change,several case examplesandanextendedtheoretical discussion.It canbe downloadedfrom http://www.bath.ac.uk/management/news_events/pdf/lowcarbon_insider_voices.pdf.Learningabout constraintstochange arisingfromthisprojectissummarisedin ‘Usingthe AQALFrameworkto Accelerate ResponsestoClimate Change’(Ballard,D.,Reason,P.etal, Journal of Integral Theoryand Practice,5(1),43-59, 2010). ‘The Application of Participatory Action Research to Climate ChangeAdaptationin Africa:A Reference Guide’ (German,L.,Tiani,A-Metal,International DevelopmentResearchCentre andthe Centerfor International ForestryResearch,2012) providesconsiderable guidance butfew case examplesfrom specificallyclimate-relatedprojects.Itcanbe downloadedfrom http://www.cifor.org/online- library/browse/view-publication/publication/4036.html Detailsof the Netherlands Knowledge forClimateprogramme canbe foundat http://knowledgeforclimate.climateresearchnetherlands.nl/

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