On climate, a call for more social science

David Victor on the need for better inclusion of social science in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

The IPCC must overhaul how it engages with the social sciences in particular…. Fields such as sociology, political science and anthropology are central to understanding how people and societies comprehend and respond to environmental changes, and are pivotal in making effective policies to cut emissions and collaborate across the globe.

But Victor points out why the problem is in part driven by shortcomings in the social sciences themselves:

Because societies are complex and are in many ways harder to study than cells in a petri dish, the intellectual paradigms across most of the social sciences are weak. Beyond a few exceptions — such as mainstream economics — the major debates in social science are between paradigms rather than within them.


  1. This is why Lin Ostrom’s (and her colleagues at the Workshop) interdisciplinary approach to studying and searching for ways people can resolve such intractable social dilemmas was and is still important. And she was not a “mainstream” economist!

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