With the current focus on the physical science aspects of climate change - socio-political arrangements and behavioural changes that can deliver the urgent action required, remain under studied, less understood. Overwhelming reliance on technologies - from fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), bio-energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to negative emissions geoengineering - has glossed over the need for societal transformations. Crucial conversations around tackling vested interests, political accountability, social and behavioral change, and climate justice now need to take center stage.
Our Human Choice and Climate Change Initiative seeks to develop a better understanding of the human and social dimensions of climate change in India, across four different interrelated themes:
Discourses and social and political engagement - Techno-economic optimization studies of energy futures in India generally overlook key aspects of the societal and political contestations over alternative energy policy pathways. Technical change must be accompanied by changes in behaviour, institutional arrangements and business practices. Incorporating social science methods such as narratives, surveys, and socio-technical scenarios is critical to bridge the gap between social and technical processes of change and their co-evolution.
Decentralizing climate action - India’s success in addressing climate change in the future will overwhelmingly depend on strong institutional arrangements at urban local and village panchayat levels, especially in relation to disaster response and adaptation to climate impacts. Approaches that provide local level officials and a range of local stakeholders the opportunity to collectively envision and meaningfully debate local futures to set a common action agenda are urgently needed.
Social dimensions of technological change – New user-centered and co-creation approaches are needed to test, trial and refine socio-technical innovation in the real life communities and settings. COVID-19 has forced a socio-technical ‘experiment’ on us - remote working, drastic fall in personal vehicle use, shutdown of international travel, and more. Urban living labs have emerged in cities across the world to test socio-technical innovation around climate action in real-life laboratories in partnership with citizens.
Cultural and aesthetic response - Our response to change is shaped by our beliefs and cultural ways of seeing; it is connected to the places we can trace our ancestry to; it plays out on landscapes we call home. How we imagine and respond to this change is culturally rooted. Artists, scientists and communities need to come together to catalyse a cultural narrative for change.