This must be the place: underrepresentation of identity and meaning in climate change decision making

This must be the place: underrepresentation of identity and meaning in climate change decision making

Article emphasising the need for climate-related science and decision making to incorporate important notions of place and identity.

In much of climate related science there is an implicit assumption that climate change only becomes important to society when it affects material aspects of well-being, mostly that represented in economic terms. In this article, published in the journal Global Environmental Politics, the authors suggest that the utilitarian notions implicit in this science under-represent at least half the story; cultural and non-material impacts, including irreversible loss of nature, that are of equal and potentially growing importance. With the interface of science with the social world seemingly dominated by the material paradigm, the authors seek to address this gap by proposing alternative issues and framing emphasising the importance of place and identity to human well-being, and its need to be included in climate science and international negotiations. The authors argue that non-material impacts, such as those associated with place, are undervalued in the present geopolitical calculus of response and non-response to climate change, and that both climate change science and economics have a “globalising instinct” in their practices, methods, and discourses that render invisible human-scale patterns and loss. Additionally, they argue that social awareness of climate change will likely come about through local places and lives, and concern cultural ramifications that are presently largely ignored within international debate and negotiations. The authors note the difficulties inherent in human rights based approaches given the geopolitical nature of climate change. Instead, it may be better to focus on institutions and political processes rather than the assertion of rights. This requires more geographically and culturally nuanced risk appraisals that allow policy-makers to recognise the diverse array of climate risks to places and cultures, as well as to countries and economies; in effect, the authors state, this represents a call for a new precautionary science of decision-making at the global scale that seeks to promote sustainable adaptation to the inevitable consequences of climate change on diverse places. Finally, the authors make clear that such an approach precludes specific recommendations, since they should be place- and context-specific. However, in all cases local communities should have some locus of control over their destinies as part of a recognition of identity and place.

[adapted from source]

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