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O’Brien recipient of prestigious BBVA Foundation Award

Karen O’Brien has been awarded the prestigious BBVA Foundation’s Frontiers of Knowledge Award for her contribution to climate change science. Read More

cCHANGE’s co-founder Karen O’Brien will receive the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, in the category “Climate Change” for her innovative contribution to understanding the social and human dimensions and consequences of climate change.

She shares the prize with two other researchers who have significantly influenced the climate change field, British human geographer, Neil Adger, and Canadian human geographer, Ian Burton. She has collaborated with both, including in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). All three were heavily involved when the IPCC got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, together with Al Gore.

The BBVA Foundation announced that the three were receiving the award for their pioneering studies into how social conditions and culture shape our vulnerability to climate change and our ability to adapt. Their work identifies who is most vulnerable to climate change, how individuals and communities respond to climate change, and how climate change affects human wellbeing, migration, and security. O’Brien, Adger, and Burton’s work emphasizes the importance of interactions between environmental change and globalization and the need to incorporate the cultural dimensions of climate change for adaptation efforts to be successful. Through their pioneering work, they have influenced the narrative globally, so that efforts to address climate change incorporate concepts of adaptation, vulnerability, and a more integrated social perspective.

Read the BBVA announcement here.

Karen discusses her work in the video below:

The BBVA Foundation promotes world-class scientific research and cultural creation, and the encouragement of talent. This is the 13th year of its Frontiers of Knowledge Award which recognize and reward contributions of singular impact in science, technology, social sciences, and the humanities. While earlier editions of the Frontiers of Knowledge Awards have distinguished contributions to climate change science from the realms of modelling, physics, or economics, this year’s prize recognizes the contribution of the social sciences.

Anniken Hagelund, Head of Department at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, where O’Brien is a professor of Human Geography, nominated her for the award. Hagelund says, “Karen O’Brien is one of the world’s foremost social science experts on global climate and environmental change. If we are to succeed in creating a more climate-friendly future, we must understand not only the physical aspects of climate change, but also the social ones. O’Brien’s research contributes important knowledge about what creates and hinders the type of social change that the world’s environment needs.”

For over three decades O’Brien has been contributing to an integrative perspective on climate change research, education, and action. She bridges disciplines, perspectives, themes, and people in a very skillful way and has been pushing the frontiers of knowledge on the human dimensions of climate change.

Recognizing this award will lift the profile of the social sciences in climate change adaptation and mitigation, O’Brien said “Since both Neil Adger and Ian Burton – like me – are social geographers, I also experience the award as a recognition of our subject’s contribution to solving the climate challenges and taking the human and social implications into account.”

Read the BBVA Foundation’s Frontier of Knowledge Award announcement for 2021 here.

BBVA Foundation website

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