Challenges in Integrating the Climate and Social Sciences for Studies of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of Original Version



Though predictions regarding the physical impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly detailed and sophisticated, the question of exactly what these physical changes mean for the social, economic and natural systems that humans value cannot be answered by the physical sciences alone. Insights from the social sciences are essential for situating these projections in ways meaningful for people and communities making decisions in the face of a changing climate. However, serious methodological and epistemological challenges make true integration between the climate and social sciences difficult. Here we describe three of these challenges in detail: the long time-scales and large spatial-scales at which climate science typically operates, the tendency to abstract climate-change related impacts from their context, and a strong emphasis on prediction. More generally, the difficulty in combining statistically-defined climate projections, with specific, embedded narratives from the social sciences is discussed, as well as suggestions for ways forward.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change