In this issue, Nature Energy takes a closer look at some of the ways in which the social sciences are addressing problems in energy and climate change.
Energy, Climate and Society
The energy sector is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. If countries are going to keep their pledges to curb warming to 1.5–2 °C above preindustrial levels, society will have to transform how it fuels its activity.
Many technical fixes for this problem have been explored, but these studies often rely on stylized assumptions about the ways individuals, communities, countries and companies behave. An integrated approach that engages the social sciences alongside the physical and natural sciences and engineering will be necessary if society is to clean up energy production, cut consumption and ensure that humans interact with energy systems in a sustainable way.
This joint Nature Energy and Nature Climate Change Collection showcases research that provides a fuller understanding of society’s response to the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon energy regime.
Image credit: Dirk Meister/Moment/Getty.
A research agenda that integrates understanding of the social processes with technical analysis of climate and energy systems is necessary to catalyse a transition to a low-carbon world.
This Perspective introduces a special Collection titled Energy, Climate and Society—jointly produced by Nature Energy and Nature Climate Change—that focuseson the social science insights into the linked problems of energy sustainability and climate change.
This Perspective describes a decision science approach to applying sociological and behavioural research to the design of effective climate- and energy-related policies.
Current approaches to energy systems invoke individual rational consumers, despite the fact that their decision-making cannot be simplified so readily. This Perspective explores the concept of consumers as part of a wider transition, offering a typology of the users who are shaping and enacting system change.
Meeting carbon emissions commitments while providing necessary energy services means reducing fossil fuel consumption. This Review presents social science insights for increasing adoption of low-carbon and low-consumption technologies and engendering practice changes among households and organizations.
Scholars and practitioners have advocated for greater public participation in decisions about renewable energy technologies. Nonetheless, many questions remain regarding the role of the public and the scope, purpose and openness of these decision processes.
Building bridges between three analytical approaches with quite different foundational bases should lead to a more comprehensive understanding of low-carbon transitions, in turn leading to more informed and effective policy decisions.
Reducing energy usage is important for climatechange mitigation. This Perspective focuses on the use and promise of agent-based modelling to understand the complexities of energy demand, including consumer behaviour.
When making decisions about energy, consumers and policymakers typically overlook moral issues, which can have profound societal consequences. This Perspective explores how ideas from justice and ethics can provide a framework to reconsider energy problems and better inform decision-making processes.
Deep international cooperation will be needed to tackle climate change. This Perspective looks at how decentralized policy coordination involving partial efforts to build confidence and reduce emissions could foster such cooperation.