chapter
24 Pages

Introduction: Anthropology and Climate Change

BySusan A. Crate, Mark Nuttall

Our 2009 edited volume, Anthropology and Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions, emerged from our increasing engagement with climate change-in the fi eld, in our conversations with colleagues, in our participation in regional and global assessments of climate change, and also from our experiences of interfacing our research with other social scientists and with natural and physical scientists. The main objective was to advance the nascent work in the fi eld of anthropology and climate change so that social and cultural anthropologists could more fully contribute to perhaps our most pressing global plight. To this end, the fi rst volume assessed the fi eld by bringing together a number of scholars to refl ect on how anthropologists encountered climate change, to consider the action they took in terms of theory, method and practice, and to suggest some possible trajectories for further work. It was reviewed favorably in a number of scholarly journals, and we have been pleased to learn from colleagues and students that it has been a useful and widely used text and one that has found a readership beyond anthropology. Since then, much has changed. Many areas of that nascent work have come into full bloom. Today anthropologists are engaging research that has a concern with resilience, vulnerability, adaptation, mitigation, anticipation, risk and uncertainty, consumption, gender, migration, and displacement. Anthropologists have developed signifi cant work on the politics of climate change, inequality, health, carbon markets and carbon sequestration, and water and energy. They have turned their attention to studying the assumptions and practices of meteorologists and climate scientists and to forecasting, scenarios, global circulation models and cultures of prediction, and the atmosphere. There are valuable studies of perceptions and observations of climate change, and of local impact, based on long-term ethnographic research in specifi c geographical places and localities, but our understanding of “the fi eld” and the scope of anthropological enquiry has never been confi ned or constrained by lines of latitude and longitude and restricted to ethnographic regions or to localities. Anthropologists work on the human rights aspects of climate change;

they assess and evaluate the vulnerability and resilience of communities (for example, Hastrup 2009)—as well as critiquing the ways that concepts such as vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity are deployed and used-they examine rapid landscape change and transformation (for instance, Orlove, Wiegandt, and Luckman 2008), and they investigate the nature of risk and the political ecology of disasters, hazards, and population displacement (for example, Oliver-Smith 2009). They also consider the social construction of climate change and climate change knowledge in terms of decision making, politics, and power (for example, Pettenger 2007). Some anthropologists are investigating the scientifi c construction of climate change scenarios and model-making and also the social relations and social and cultural contexts within which climate models are imagined, conceived, assembled, and used to frame scientifi c practice (for instance, Lahsen 2005; Hastrup and Skyrdstrup 2013). They work in contexts and situations where anthropological knowledge and practice help to inform, shape, or critique policy (for example, Fiske 2009), and they do ethnographic research on international congresses, processes, policy dialogues, and initiatives that deal with the politics and science of climate change (for example, Skrydstrup 2009). Anthropologists are increasingly fi nding greater roles to play in regional and global assessments of climate change (the work of some of our contributors to both editions has been referenced in recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other regional and global change assessments) and in our understanding of the planetary biosphere, and they work on theorizing and conceptualizing how to bridge temporal and spatial scales and illuminating ways of understanding how to disentangle the effects of natural variability and change from those of human action. A much-needed emerging area of study concerns how people know what they know about climate change (for example, Rudiak-Gould 2011). In short, since the 2009 publication of the fi rst edition there has been a fl urry of activity and development and refi nement of theoretical and methodical approaches, all of which is refl ected in this new volume.