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Culture, Politics and Climate Change


A video lecture that discusses the link between politics, culture and climate change by D. Parthasarthy. This video lecture is part 2 of a 2-part lecture series titled ‘Climate Change and Society: Culture, Politics, And Social Dynamics’ of a MOOC. This MOOC has been developed by the National Resource Center on Climate Change at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, India. The video discusses the politics of climate change, its origin and how it has evolved over time. It further discusses the unequal impacts of climate change on societies, the problem of accountability and responsibility by countries and the ongoing debate between economic development and mitigation of climate change. It discusses the concepts of power of stakeholders, their decision making, societal vulnerability and risk. The video also discusses the current lack of representation in policy making by communities that are directly affected by climate change and hence the need for “knowledge participation”. The lecture further highlights the “social limits to climate action” that includes values, ethics, knowledge and culture which determine climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. The lecture specifically discusses four propositions to understand climate change and culture:

  1. Values and ethics are central to politics where social units are based on ethical principles
  2. Uncertainty leads to failure to adapt and increases vulnerability for certain communities
  3. There is a gap between perception of risk and action
  4. Cultural aspects are excluded when developing climate adaptation strategies

The lecture then highlights how culture defines the politics of climate change contributing to the “knowledge-ignorance paradox” which discusses the concept of “scientific illiteracy”. D Parthasarathy further discusses the Giddens paradox that highlights the four reasons for decreasing public concern about climate change:

  1. Political campaigns by corporate organizations against policy proposals to reduce carbon emissions
  2. The abstract and vague nature of climate science for a layman to understand
  3. The ‘free-rider’ issue where the impact of climate change affects other countries rather than the country of origin, enabling no action to be taken to control it.
  4. The debate between economic development and climate change mitigation in developing countries like India.

The lecture also provides four suggestions put forth by Giddens to tackle these issues:

  1. Political leaders must be convinced to take action
  2. Small regional climate change agreements must be made instead of international agreements where accountability and responsibility are hard to monitor.
  3. Companies that use fossil fuels must be challenged by local companies
  4. Promotion of local activism to influence global action

Students will learn about the politics of climate change. They will learn about the existing politics of climate change and how vulnerability, risk and uncertainty affects decision making by individuals and societies. Students will further learn about the inherent presence of societal values, ethics, vulnerability, power and risk that determine societal ignorance, knowledge and perception of climate change. Through the four propositions, they will learn about the need for a transdisciplinary approach to ensure effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. Additionally, students will learn about the “knowledge-ignorance paradox’, the Giddens paradox and media representation and how this influences the public perception and concern of climate change.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. Discuss the link between culture and climate politics
  2. How do the concepts of power, risk, uncertainty and vulnerability affect climate change policies?
  3. Discuss the “knowledge-ignorance paradox” and its influence on public concern
  4. Discuss the Giddens paradox and its four hypotheses and their impact on climate mitigation policies.
About Tool
Tool Name W10 CO7 LO2 Climate Change and Society: Culture, Politics, And Social Dynamics Lecture 02
Discipline Social Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline Climate Change Overview, Cultural Studies, Political Science, Social Dynamics, Social Inequalities, Knowledge-Ignorance Paradox, Giddens Paradox, Sociology 
Climate Topic Climate Literacy, Climate and Society, Policy, Politics and Environmental Governance
Type of tool Video (46 mins)
Grade Level Undergraduate, Graduate
Location Global
Language English
Translation      –
Developed by Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune 
Hosted at YouTube 
Access Online
Computer Skills Basic

Mapped Sustainable Development Goal(s), apart from 4 and 13


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