Climate measuring series in Uppsala 1743
The meteorological journal the day the Celsius thermometer is being introduced, June 2 1743 [1]

Introduction: bending the curves to a sustainable future

Welcome to week 2 of the Climate Change Leadership course! Among other things, we will learn about:

  • Climate targets, carbon budgets and emission reductions pathways to meet the 2°C target.
  • Climate justice and how climate change highlights inequalities between countries.
  • The difference between mitigation, adaptation and transformation as approaches to combat climate change.

Finally, we will reflect on our own role as climate change leaders and explore the multiple arenas in which climate change leadership can occur. You will get to identify and discuss challenge that you are facing in your own context that you will work with throughout the course.

Before we jump into the videos, quizzes and discussions for this week, here is a brief outline of the key concepts that we will cover.

Climate justice

One of the points brought up in Doreen Stabinsky’s video on the outcomes of the Paris Agreement is that some countries have more power in this space than others do. This doesn’t only pose challenges for agreeing on certain legally binding or non-binding terms but also is an example of injustice. While there are many theoretical approaches to explaining justice, in terms of climate justice it is usually perceived in the way that while industrialised countries carry most of the responsibility for climate change (due to historically high amounts of emitted carbon dioxide) it’s the developing countries that suffer most from the impacts. And carrying least of the responsibility since their historic emissions are low. [2]

This situation and and the power structures it creates is one of the main political challenges that we are facing when dealing with climate change.

Climate justice

Both the drivers of climate change and its impacts are unevenly distributed. The photograph above shows the Mongstad oil refinery in Norway, and agriculture in the Panchkhal Valley in Nepal. (Photo © Jakob Grandin).

Deliberate transformations and climate-resilient pathways

In climate change jargon, adaptation refers to the “process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects” [3], whereas mitigation refers to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in order to decrease the magnitude of global warming. Recently, transformation has come up as an additional climate change response, which recognises the fundamental and systemic nature of social change needed to meet the climate change challenge. The IPCC defines transformation as:

A change in the fundamental attributes of natural and human systems. … [T]ransformation could reflect strengthened, altered, or aligned paradigms, goals, or values towards promoting adaptation for sustainable development, including poverty reduction. [4]

According to the IPCC “[t]ransformations in economic, social, technological, and political decisions and actions” may enable climate-resilient pathways.[5] These pathways combine emission reductions, adaptation measures and activities that increase social well-being in order to achieve sustainable development. The decisions that are made the coming years will hence determine both the magnitude of climate change that future societies will face, as well as the ability of these of these societies to deal with this climate change.

You will hear more on transformation as an approach to climate change leadership from Karen O’Brien, who notes that:

Choice refers here not only to adaptation, but also to our ability to shape the social and environmental conditions of the future. [6]

References

  1. The temperature and climate measuring series in Uppsala starting 1722, this image from 1743, read more about the series here
  2. World Resources Institute (2014) The History of Carbon Dioxide Emissions
  3. IPCC (2014). Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 5
  4. IPCC (2014). Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 5
  5. IPCC (2014). Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 29
  6. O’Brien, K. (2012). Global environmental change II: From adaptation to deliberate transformation. Progress in Human Geography, 36(5), p. 668

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This article is from the free online course:

Climate Change Leadership

Uppsala University