To deal with climate change we need social change

Your Blog Action Day post from  well sharp.

Social and Governance Dimensions of Climate Change: Implications for Policy (Policy Research Working P aper 4939) Roberto Foa, The World Bank, May 2009

This paper presents empirical evidence about some of social factors likely to be important for societies to implement effective responses to the challenges of climate change, and discusses what this suggests for policy.

The bottom line: to deal with climate change we need social change – specifically, we need a world of gender equity, with a flourishing civil society, and broad cross-cutting social ties.

Foa begins by “assessing the ability of countries to manage the costs of climate change adaptation, looking at success and failure at managing natural disasters – with ‘success’ defined in terms of a lower rate of deaths relative to the number of disasters faced by a society.” (Section 1) He then examines the quality of environmental governance: specifically “the success or failure of states at achieving climate change mitigation and adaptation tasks, such as limitation of emissions, improvements in air and water quality, recycling.”  (Section 2)

The evidence in both cases is clear and consistent across nations: societies do better in responding to climate change when women are empowered, and when civil society is broad, diverse, and strong. A certain kind of social capital is important: that which promotes cross cutting social ties (e.g. positive inter-ethnic and inter-faith relations) – strong but narrow parochial social ties seem to actually worsen a society’s response to climate change. A culture of political and social activism helps. When formally democratic systems are captured by powerful vested interests they perform poorly. Empowerment of women may go hand in hand with a strong civil society, but it also seems to bring other benefits: women appear to show greater concern for environmental outcomes and societies where womens’ position is more equitable tend to show less emphasis on pursuit of GDP growth at the expense of the environment, and have economies with relatively lower carbon intensity.

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