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Anthropologists all over the world are working to 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.
Below are resources to learn more about the causes and impacts of climate change.
Changing the Atmosphere: Anthropology and Climate Change Final Report to the AAA Executive Board
The Social Science Perspectives on Climate Change workshop was held in Washington, DC in March 2017. The workshop was organized by the US Global Change Research Program’s (USGCRP) Social Science Coordinating Committee (SSCC) in cooperation with the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of Geographers, the American Sociological Association, and the Society for American Archaeology. This workshop brought together about 30 academic, environmentally focused social scientists from archaeology, cultural anthropology, human geography, and sociology, with some 60 federal staff involved in climate change-related activities. Three white papers* were developed following the workshop.
Read more about the workshop and access the white papers here.
* These white papers are the products of a workshop hosted in part by the US Global Change Research Program's Social Science Coordinating Committee. They were developed by multidisciplinary teams comprising scientists and researchers from federal agencies and academia. These papers and their conclusions do not necessarily reflect the policy or views of the federal government, the Social Science Coordinating Committee, or the US Global Change Research Program.
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."
Bringing Climate Change Home: Empowering Communities
Susie Crate, a Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University, is offering a program to work with communities adjacent to anthropology departments nationwide (and even internationally!)—in your hometown! Learn more about the opportunities that are available to begin coordinating a program that could work in your community.
Beyond Doom and Gloom: Engage in Climate and Energy Solutions
Are you or your students worried about climate change? Are you or your students interested in a cleaner energy future? Are you connecting your students to high impact solutions? This initiative from the Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability uses expert, easy-to-use materials that involve students in important civic engagement solutions (a high impact learning practice). They can be used in any course and in campus activities. Visit the educators’ page, the students’ page (including a motivating two minute video), and the webinar to see how you can be part of reducing doom and gloom and share opportunities for progress and applied learning.
Search the Open Anthropology Research Repository (OARR) for more information.
The position of the AAA, as articulated in the AAA Statement on Humanity and Climate Change (PDF) is summarized below:
The AAA appointed a commission to investigate the breadth of anthropological research on global climate change. The 2014 report can be found here (PDF).
Changing the Atmosphere: Anthropology and Climate Change (PDF) is a comprehensive summary of the role anthropologists can play in studying and mitigating the effects of climate change.
At the UN Climate Change Conference in November of 2017, nations of the world met to advance the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement and achieve progress on its implementation guidelines. The conference, officially referred to as COP 23/ CMP 13/ CMA 1-2, took place in Bonn, Germany, hosted by the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and presided over by Fiji.
The AAA delegation delivered a statement on anthropologists’ positions, concerns and hopes for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and established relationships with constituents and NGOs on jointly-held concerns such as sustainable development, deforestation, forestry and communities facing REDD and REDD+, non-economic damage and language loss, indigenous peoples and human rights.
Read the AAA Statement (PDF) to the High Level Ministerial Segment of the 23nd Session of the Conference of the Parties –COP23 to the UNFCCC.
Members of the delegation included: