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The Solution is Social: How and why to work with the human dimension in climate change research

March 16, 2023 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

BC3 Seminars
The Solution is Social: How and why to work with the human dimension in climate change research “

Dr. Julia Leventon

Head of the Department of Human Dimensions of Global Change at the CzechGlobe Institute and partner of the SSH Centre project.


Climate change is caused by human activities, the human dimension is an obvious place to look to find solutions. Yet between 1990 and 2018, social science research received only 0.12% of global research funding into climate change (Overland and Sovacool, 2020). Where they are supported, social sciences and humanities are often placed in service to the research and practice agendas of physical sciences (Kania and Bucksch, 2020). Such under-representation is perpetuated, and carried into the policy and practice arena (Royston and Foulds, 2020), for example through IPCC (Lahsen and Turnhout, 2021).

In this presentation, I discuss why a neglect of the human dimension is problematic. I begin by reflecting on what human dimensions of climate change are, and the various contributions that social sciences and humanities make in understanding them. In doing so, I demonstrate the richness of knowledge that far exceeds understandings of human dimensions as being about communicating impact, or improving acceptability of proposed solutions. Drawing on experience and examples from across a range of interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and participatory projects and research environments, I reflect on institutional and epistemic challenges to working with human dimensions. I end by discussing practical approaches to how we change our own research practices towards transdisciplinarity, and the kinds of support and change we need from broader academia to do so.

Throughout the talk, I will speak to you as an environmental social scientist, who often works with transdisciplinary research approaches. I tend to look across environmental problems (e.g. climate change, biodiversity loss) to explore the deep societal transformations that can unlock sustainable futures. To do so, I often work as the social scientist alongside my physical science and engineering colleagues. Further, I currently lead the social sciences section of a predominantly physical-science research institute. Through this experience, I have developed a particular interest in questions of epistemic justice and the institutional enablers and disablers of inter- and trans- disciplinary research in environmental topics, and in particular on how it shapes the questions we ask and the answers we find. I will draw on this experience and research in my talk.

About the Lecturer

Dr. Julia Leventon work broadly on topics of governance systems change for sustainability. Her work engages in topics of biodiversity loss and climate change (and their related symptoms). She takes a systems thinking approach, including understanding place-based social-ecological interactions, and how these are embedded within multilevel governance systems, including politics, polity and policy. Her work has a strong focus on inter- and trans-disciplinarity, with a contribution to developing methodologies therein.

Sede Building (Room Aketxe), Scientific Park of the University of the Basque Country, March 16 (2023), 11:30 am-12:30 pm (CET)

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March 16, 2023
11:30 am - 12:30 pm
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BC3-Basque Centre for Climate Change
Sede Building 1, 1st floor, Scientific Park of the University of the Basque Country
+34 944 014 690
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