The warming of the climate system is unprecedented and it challenges humanity to respond like no problem before it. Climate change interferes with all areas of life on earth from the melting ice in the arctic impacting sensitive ecosystems to the increased incidences of flooding and heat spells in cities. The challenge is ‘wicked’ and has even been coined ‘super-wicked’ (Levin, Cashore, Bernstein, & Auld, 2012), characterized by i) lack of time to act; ii) those seeking to end the problem are also causing it; iii) lack of central effective authority; and iv) both policies and the public discount the future irrationally, by not acting on evidence of significant risks.
The social and environmental complexity of the problem is enormous, and the scientific understanding of the problem is constantly evolving, making climate change policy a dynamic problem. Rising to the challenge involves behavior change among citizens, companies, public authorities etc., with all the difficulties that this poses to different target groups: attempts at regulation are characterized by chronic policy failure and difficulties to define the problem are evident across stakeholders. The responsibility for the climate challenge does not reside with any one organization, which makes this a problem that is cross governance, nationally and internationally.
The main objective of the research pillar “Climate, Society & Health” is to develop the understanding and knowledge required in order to support a transition towards a climate resilient and healthy society, exempt of fossil fuels, and to do so in a socially acceptable way that is also cost-efficient.
The main questions concern how human society can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere fast enough and with as few regrets as possible, and how we can adapt to the inevitable negative impacts of climate change. How can policy frameworks, economic instruments and innovation in governance bring about the needed reductions effectively and cost-efficiently? How should the transition in the energy system towards energy-efficiency and low-carbon be planned and implemented? How can GHG emission reductions in the agricultural sector be combined with other environmental priorities? What co-benefits can be expected from GHG emission reduction policies on health and liveability in urban areas? How to design sustainable cities that are resilient to greater climate variability and what is the potential for nature-based solutions? How to obtain climate change mitigation services from bio-based production systems? What are the challenges at national or regional level to reduce GHG emissions when taking into account the carbon footprint of consumption? How to improve the reporting and verification of national GHG emissions and offer an alternative to the current bottom-up system of the UNFCCC?
We work inter-disciplinarily with these and related questions across systems – social, energy, agriculture, urban, and carbon-neutral production systems, underpinned by expertise in monitoring, reporting and verification incl. data and projections from national GHG reporting.