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New Report: The Seven Dimensions of Climate Change

How we frame the climate change problem is critical to how we solve it, and whether the solution is sustainable and equitable. In this report RSA and COIN has started an important discussion on why so little progress is made and what is needed. Read More

The report “The seven dimensions of climate change: A new way to think, talk and act” by Jonathan Rowson (Director, Social Brain Centre, RSA), and Adam Corner (Research Director, Climate Outreach & Information Network) offers an alternative framing of the climate change challenge. Their starting point is that climate change is not mainly about environment, but rather a challenge with multiple identifies. From seven dimensions they ask what the key challenges of climate change is, how progress can be made within each of them, and the linkages between the dimensions.

The aim of this reframing of climate change is to stress the systemic nature of climate change and the wide range of possible solutions. By attacking attention to the deeper social and human dimensions of climate change, people are more likely to see themselves as part of the challenge and thus the solution. At the same time the report highlights the need for a multi-lateral approach where individuals and groups across the dimensions talk and exchange ideas, thus moving away from viewing climate change as an scientific fact to approaching it as a social fact.

Within the seven dimensions the reports suggest the following:

  • From Science we need a new social contract between scientists and society; moving away from a ‘hands-off’ view of expecting ‘more facts’ to somehow produce deeper engagement with climate policies.
  • With Behaviour we need to face up to ‘stealth denial’ – the fact that the majority of those who understand the problem intellectually don’t live as though they do. From Technology we need deep decarbonisation at scale – we need more and better tools to decarbonise energy, and as quickly as possible.
  • Our Democracy needs to overcome the governance trap – people expect the government to act but government thinks people don’t care about the issue enough; and climate change is a collective action ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem at almost every level.
  • Our Economy needs to invest in the future; this is mostly about moving money away from fossil fuels[1] towards renewables, but is also about getting beyond the fetishisation of economic growth and reimagining economic models and purposes.
  • In Law we need a constraint on extraction at a global level i.e. a legal mechanism to keep fossil fuels in the ground, but we need to be mindful of the steps towards that, and the financial impact (‘carbon bubble’).
  • Throughout our Culture: we need to break ‘climate silence’ and normalise discussions on the issue; moving away from whether it’s happening to what we’re doing about it.

The report “The Seven Dimensions of Climate Change: A new way to think, talk and act” can be downloaded the RSA webpage.

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