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ESRC research focussed on climate change

Studying the impact of climate change

Climate change and efforts to mitigate and adapt to it have far-reaching consequences for society and the economy, here in the UK and internationally. It is vital that we understand these impacts in order to create evidence-based policies that support a more sustainable world, and inform individuals, organisations and business about the actions they can take to help.

Hosted jointly by LSE and the University of Leeds, the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) is carrying out wide-ranging research addressing issues such as the climate-friendly development of resilient cities, low carbon industrial and economic growth, sustainable infrastructure, and incentives for behavioural change.

Together with European partners, we are supporting a number of projects through the JPI Climate SOLSTICE research programme, tackling issues around social justice, participation, learning and risk to gain a better understanding of how communities are getting to grips with climate change and how they can make a difference.

Supporting sustainable societies

In a rapidly changing world with finite resources, the drive for economic prosperity and growth can seem at odds with the need to move towards sustainable solutions that mitigate against climate change.

Based at the University of Surrey, the ESRC Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) is working with people, policymakers and businesses to understand what sustainable prosperity looks like and how it might be achieved. CUSP’s work not only addresses prosperity in terms of wealth creation but also what this looks like for society, including health and wellbeing, access to education and rewarding work.

Policies aimed at addressing climate change may not impact all parts of society in the same way, both here in the UK and in the wider world, potentially causing or reinforcing existing inequalities and marginalising certain social groups.

The ESRC Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre is working with global colleagues to carry out research aimed at supporting the development of just and democratic sustainability policies that include the needs, knowledge and perspectives of poor and marginalised people.

We also administer The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – a major Government funding stream supporting research that addresses the most pressing problems faced by low- and middle-income countries, including climate change, environmental sustainability and food security.

Practical solutions

Mitigating the impact of climate change, adapting to its effects and meeting our sustainability goals, such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, is going to require significant changes in the way that we live.

We are investing in several major programmes designed to understand the impact of climate change on society and the economy, with the goal of developing practical solutions that will move us in the right direction to a more sustainable world.

Led by Cardiff and Bath Universities, the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) is a global hub for understanding the profound changes required to address climate change. CAST’s work focuses on how we can all make a difference in our everyday lives in the areas of food, travel, shopping, and heating or cooling in buildings, and how best to bring about these changes.

And our £3.5 million investment in the Place-based Climate Action Network (P-CAN) is translating top-level climate policy into direct, practical actions within local communities, creating healthier, more prosperous and resilient towns and cities with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Moving to a low carbon economy

We are supporting a number of research projects aimed at cutting carbon footprints across various sectors, enabling the move towards a low carbon economy.

As part of JPI Urban Europe: Urban Accessibility and Connectivity, we are supporting several transdisciplinary international consortia that are tackling the challenges of embedding sustainable transport into urban development, from walking and micro-scooters through to electric cars and railways.

Innovative energy solutions

Modern societies rely on a secure, affordable and sustainable supply of energy, which must be balanced against the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding the wide-ranging demands for energy and how these might be met in a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly way is therefore an essential part of climate change research.

Researchers at the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) at the University of Oxford are investigating the drivers of energy demand in the UK and other countries, and the technical, social and policy challenges that need to be overcome in order to bring about transformative change.

At UCL, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) is also addressing the challenges and opportunities for the UK brought about by the movement towards the decarbonisation of our energy systems. One important social science project at UKERC is the SEE Observatory, which is developing new approaches for engaging the public in making the transition to low carbon energy production more fair, responsible and responsive to society.

Understanding complexity

It is impossible to separate the environment and climate from society’s needs for food, water and energy. Policies aimed at tackling climate change must therefore take this complex interplay into account, in order to avoid unintended and potentially harmful consequences of incompatible solutions.

Researchers at the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) are working with policymakers, academics and the public to explore innovative ways of developing and evaluating policies that impact on these interconnected areas, for example through computer modelling of possible scenarios.