The environmental challenges that confront society are unprecedented and staggering in their magnitude, scope, pace and complexity. They have potentially serious consequences for the wellbeing of people all over the world. The consequences of global environmental change are unfolding now; individuals and communities are already struggling to manage often precarious livelihoods; other social, economic and political crises – including persistent poverty, increasing inequalities and social discontent – are intricately linked to and exacerbated by environmental change. Global environmental change changes everything for everyone on this planet – our life support systems, our livelihoods, our ways of life, our actions and interactions with each other. It also changes demands for and on the social, including behavioural and economic sciences.
This is the third edition of the World Social Science Report. Based on a call for proposals, over 150 authors from all over the world have contributed articles. The Report issues an urgent call to action to the international social science community. Social scientists need to collaborate more effectively with colleagues from the natural, human and engineering sciences to deliver relevant, credible knowledge that can help to address the most pressing of today’s environmental problems and sustainability challenges. And they need to do so in close collaboration with decision-makers, practitioners and the other users of their research.
A new kind of social science is needed, one that is bolder, better, bigger, different:
• Bold enough to reframe and reinterpret global environmental change as a fundamentally social process
• Better in terms of infusing social science insights into real-world problem-solving
• Bigger in terms of the need for more social scientists to address the challenges of global environmental change directly
• Different in the sense of changing the way the social sciences think about and do science – its theories, assumptions, methodologies, institutions, norms and incentives, to help meet the vexing interdisciplinary and cross-sector challenges society faces.
This report aims to engage social scientists working in all disciplines in academia, research institutes, think tanks, NGOs, and government agencies all over the world. The ISSC will use the report as a basis for critical discussion with its members and partners to sharpen the social science knowledge base on global environmental change and to support social science leadership in research for sustainability.