Exploring climate change

Across the world people have become familiar with the concepts of 'global warming' and 'climate change'. Several decades of social science research into climate change have raised societal awareness and explored the consequences of the choices we make as a society - bringing benefits to human livelihoods not only in the short term, but potentially for centuries and millennia.

The social science achievement of understanding and responding to climate change is rooted in human behaviour – the drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, the climate impacts on people and ecosystems and how we react to these, and the evaluation of political and economic solutions.

UK research has been at the forefront of looking at how society at large will tackle climate change. In the early 1990s the ESRC funded the Global Environmental Change Programme (1991-2001), which was followed by the Centre for Social and Economic Research and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. More recent research investments included the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy chaired by Lord Stern, author of the landmark Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.

The influence of UK social scientists' research on climate change spans local, national and global perspectives - from local businesses and schools through to the pioneering UK Climate Change Act and the international negotiations following the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Social science is providing invaluable insights into how human societies can limit climate change, and live in a changed environment.