Annual Interdisciplinary Academy

Stream 5: Climate change as social challenge: Challenging climate change socially

Stream Leader: Prof Kitty Dumont, Social Change Research Lab, College of Graduate Studies, UNISA

Although climate change is one of the most important environmental challenges the world is currently facing, the progress on developing effective policies and strategies to mitigate climate change has been slow and sometimes even stagnate. Climate change, as an intergenerational global commons dilemma (Fahrenthold, 2009), is affecting individuals and communities over the span of generations and around the globe.

Climate change is not only a biophysical but also a social phenomenon. It is social because of both its anthropogenic origin and its effects on societies, which range from threats to public health, psychological well-being to potential harm to community infrastructures, work settings and living environments.

Climate models predict that developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia will experience the most severe effects of climate change (e.g., extreme weather, raising seas). Although, most of these countries contributed little to the existing greenhouse gas level; they also contribute little in mitigating the anthropogenic origin of climate change. For instance, only 10.8% of South African urban households recycle; more white (28.4%) than black (7%) South African urban households recycle; households headed by younger adults (5.3%) recycle less than households headed by older adults (18.4%); educated (24.8%) recycle more than less educated (7.8%); and South African households with high income recycle more (21.5%) than South African households with low income (3.7%). The South African millennials (22-37 years old) do not differ from the rest of the world in that they are least likely to recycle.

Climate change has an intergroup dimension: there are people who are concerned about climate change and there are people who are sceptical about climate change; there are people who want to contribute to mitigate climate change and there are people who do not; there are people who behave pro-environmentally and there are people who behave anti- environmentally. The intergroup dimension of climate change can be the “light at the end of the tunnel” or it can be the “light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a train coming your way”. To prevent the latter, we need to understand the role of social groups and social identities within the context of climate change.     

Social groups and social identities play a role in mitigating climate change because they help us to answer different questions. For instance, what makes some people to recycle while others do not? What makes some people to use public transport while others do not? What makes some people to believe in climate change while others reject it? What makes some people to join an environmental group while others do not? What makes some people to fight politically for policies that mitigate climate change while others do not?  What makes some people to violate while others comply with these policies? What makes some people to put themselves at stake for the environment while others do not? The Stream “Climate change as social challenge. Challenging climate change socially” will engage with these questions from the theoretical perspective of the Social Identity Approach with the support and guidance of internationally acclaimed social psychologists. We plan to develop and conduct research that will be of local interest and global relevance.

Stream programme:

Participants of the stream “Climate change as social challenge. Challenging climate change socially” will meet for four research seminars during the course of the year to plan, conduct, analyse and present the research findings.

08 - 10 April: During the opening week of the Annual Interdisciplinary Academy we will have our first stream seminar where we will elaborate on the local need and the global interest to extend our understanding of the intergroup dimension of climate change. Participants will be introduced to the dominant social psychological theories that address emotions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour relevant to mitigate climate change. The first seminar will be used to specify our research question.
10-12 June: At our second seminar, we will focus on research methodologies that are most appropriate to collect empirical evidence to test our hypotheses. In order to select the most appropriate method, it is necessary to have a solid understanding of the various methodological approaches available to us.

16- 18

September:

The third seminar of our stream will be dedicated to the analysis of data that were collected in our research project. Stream participants will be introduced to basic and advanced statistical approaches to analyse empirical data.
04 – 08 November: The last seminar which will be organised during the one-week summer school we will focus on how to present research results. The presentation of the research results will be two-folded. First we will focus on the oral presentation of research and secondly, we will focus on the writing of scientific papers.

Faculty:

  • Prof Kitty Dumont; Social Change Research Lab, College of Graduate Studies, UNISA
  • Prof Immo Fritsche; Professor of Psycology at Leipzig University in Germany
  • Prof Kelly Fielding; Associate professor at University of Queensland in Astralia
  • Prof Sven Waldzus; Associate professor at University of Lisbon

Minimum requirements for participants:

Students registered in psychology, sociology, political science, and law with an interest in questions related to Climate Change and Social Identities.

Last modified: 2019/07/31