The Missing Factor in Climate Change Adaptation? Human Psychology

How well do humans respond in a crisis and how we will react in the ‘new normal’ of on-going climate crisis? This is a question I’ve been pondering more and more in thinking about the human and organizational dimensions of climate change.

For instance, within the mainstream discourse of climate change policy the argument is often made that we need to move beyond climate change ‘mitigation’ and focus increasingly on ‘adaptation’. While adaptation is a critical part of responding to the impacts of climate change, the implication is that adaptation is now the ‘main game’ and will involve relatively manageable infrastructure and planning changes. The problem here is that the scale of climate change on ‘business as usual’ (BAU) projections will likely exceed manageable parameters. Physically, there are clear issues over how humanity can adapt to 4-6 degrees Celsius warming in terms of a habitable climate, extreme weather events and the demise of food supplies. Indeed, some researchers have now started to focus on ‘transformative’ adaptation. As a recent commentator noted, ‘The words that need to be in our conversations are transformation, rationing and shared sacrifice’. However, this becomes even more complex once we consider humanity’s psychological ‘adaptive capacity’ in a situation of societal breakdown.

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‘We’re F#cked!’ Conceptualising Catastrophe

Galveston Aftermath (Image: Cody Austin)
Galveston Aftermath (Image: Cody Austin)

Climate change is often characterised as a ‘crisis’ but is it more accurately understood as a ‘catastrophe’? This is a question I’ve been pondering during the last few days at the 8th International Conference in Critical Management Studies at the University of Manchester. Along with colleagues Christian De Cock, Daniel Nyberg and Sheena Vachhani, I’ve been involved in organising a conference stream which pondered the meanings of catastrophe under the somewhat mischievous title ‘We’re Fucked! Conceptualising Catastrophe’.

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Creative Self Destruction: Corporate Responses to Climate Change as Political Myths

Image: iStockPhoto
Image: iStockPhoto

Recently I’ve been pondering the worsening news on climate change, escalating greenhouse  gas emissions (400ppm!), and the continued political obfuscation around this most critical of phenomena.

One response has been to get increasingly angry and frustrated at the lack of substantive and coordinated action in confronting climate change. Another has been to ponder why humanity fails to engage on this issue. Recently Daniel Nyberg and I have penned a paper seeking to explore how political myths underpin much of the current corporate response to climate change. I’m presenting the paper at the forthcoming European Group for Organization Studies (EGOS) 2013 conference in Montreal. You can read the paper here: Wright & Nyberg EGOS2013 Paper Final – be interested in your thoughts and feedback.