This is Anthropology: Climate Change Research and Policy - Learn and Teach
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This is Anthropology: Climate Change Research and Policy

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In This Section

This is Anthropology: Climate Change Research and Policy

Anthropologists all over the world are working to help us understand the implications of climate change and develop concrete solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time. Anthropologists study the anthropogenic influences driving climate change, the governance systems for dealing with climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the human impacts and ramifications of global climate change.

Climate change creates global threats that affect all aspects of human life, including our health, homes, livelihoods, and cultures, as well as our physical environment. Threats of this magnitude affect our stability—our sense of cultural identity, our well-being, and our security. As a discipline clearly devoted to the human condition over time and space, anthropology offers important insights that can help create workable solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In response to growing climate change crises, the AAA appointed a commission to investigate the breadth of anthropological research on global climate change, the resultant knowledge, and to encourage more research and engagement by anthropologists on global environmental change. The 2014 report by the commission can be found through the link below at “Changing the Atmosphere.”

The position of the AAA, as articulated in the AAA Statement on Humanity and Climate Change (PDF) is as follows:

  1. Climate change is a present reality that alters our physical environment and impacts human cultures around the globe.
  2. Climate change intensifies underlying problems—poverty and economic disparities, food and water security, and armed conflict—heightening these issues to the point of widespread crisis.

  3. We can expect to see widespread impacts on communities as they face dislocation and pressure to migrate.

  4. While climate change affects all of Earth’s inhabitants, the impacts will fall unevenly and with particular weight on those already affected by existing vulnerabilities.

  5. Specific human actions and choices drive climate change by emphasizing fossil fuel as the primary energy source, creating a culture of consumerism, and favoring land use practices that undermine ecological resilience. 

  6. The archaeological record reveals diverse human adaptations and innovations to climate stresses occurring over millennia, providing evidence that is relevant to contemporary human experience.

  7. Climate change is a global problem with local and regional impacts that require local and regional solutions. It is important for there to be community involvement in crafting, determining, and adopting measures for adaptation.

  8. Climate change is rooted in social institutions and cultural habits. Real solutions will require knowledge and insight from the social sciences and humanities, not only from the natural sciences. Climate change is not a natural problem, it is a human problem.

Additional Information on Anthropologists and Climate Change

THE ANTHROPOLOGIST considers the fate of the planet from the perspective of an American teenager. Over five years, she travels alongside her mother, Susan Crate, an anthropologist studying the impact of climate change on indigenous communities. According to a SAPIENS review, "the film does what the cultural anthropology of climate change also seeks to do: It humanizes those affected, telling their stories in detail and with compassion."

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