Researchers studying snowpack on the drift ice of the Arctic Ocean: Funding is tight. Image: By Timo Palo, via Wikimedia Commons
Climate research is the poor relation of the academic world. Since 1990 it’s won less than 5% of the research funds available.
With the crisis of global heating now widely recognised as one of the most challenging issues facing the world today, you might assume that vast amounts of money are going into climate research.
In a study published in the journal Energy Research & Social Science, they report how they examined a dataset containing details of 4.3 million research funding awards made from 1950 to 2021. In total, the awards were worth more than a trillion US dollars.
After sifting through copious amounts of material, the study’s authors estimate that in the period between 1990 and 2018, only from 2.4% to 4.6% of the total global research funding made available was devoted to investigating aspects of climate change.
They then analysed the various areas of climate change-related funding, looking specifically at the amounts given to research on the issue in the field of social science.
Meagre recent funding
The study comes up with several findings. “The first is that hardly any social science research was conducted on climate change before 1990”, the authors say.
“The second observation is how little funding has gone into research on climate change overall since 1990, regardless of discipline.”
They found that within the funding granted to climate change research, the social sciences received only a relatively minuscule amount.
“From 1990 to 2018, the natural and physical sciences received a total of US$40 billion (for climate change research) compared to only $4.6 bn for the social sciences and humanities.”
“While this research is valuable, it does not tackle head-on the most urgent question: how to change society to mitigate climate change right now”
Contrast these figures with the profits over a similar period by some of the world’s biggest oil companies. According to recent analysis for the Guardian newspaper BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon made almost $2tn (£1.54tn) in profits in the 1990 to 2019 period – a time when the climate emergency was becoming widely recognised, including within the fossil fuel industry.
The study defines the social sciences as encompassing anthropology, economics, education, international relations, human geography, development, legal and media studies, political science, psychology and sociology.
The academics say the research carried out within social science has tended to concentrate on ways of adapting to climate change – such as how to manage extreme weather events and recover from disasters – rather than mitigating its effects.
“While this research is valuable, it does not tackle head-on the most urgent question: how to change society to mitigate climate change right now.”
Need for reform
Social science can play a key role in coming up with answers, says the study. It’s vital, the authors say, that issues be addressed such as how to persuade households to adopt low-carbon lifestyles, or how to promote decarbonisation among cultures and market economies as diverse as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the UK.
“Although the natural and technical sciences often generate results that are, or are perceived to be, clearer and more concrete than the social sciences, they cannot handle issue areas – such as attitudes, norms, incentives and politics – that are intrinsically social.”
The study expresses caveats about its findings: its dataset on funding awards covers only competitive research grants. In some countries such as Germany, France and China, large amounts of research funding are distributed in the form of basic grants, and it is often difficult to know precisely on what areas such money is spent.
The study says social science has to reform itself and be more in tune with what’s happening. “Some social science research is wishy-washy, lacking an understanding of the natural sciences and the physical world.”
Social scientists, it says, need to do a better job of ensuring rigour and validity in their research. – Climate News Network
About the Author
Kieran Cooke is co-editor of the Climate News Network. He is a former BBC and Financial Times correspondent in Ireland and Southeast Asia., http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon
Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy
by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
by Naomi Klein
In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon
From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.