Scientists behaving responsibly: should science walk the talk on climate breakdown?

The SGR Responsible Science Conference 2019

The Gallery, Farringdon, London, UK,  EC1M 6EL


The threat of climate breakdown is now accepted as endangering human civilisation. We have science and scientists to thank for our understanding of this challenge. In particular, the recent special report of the IPCC on what it will take to stay below the 1.5 degree warming target concludes that, ‘rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes will be needed in all areas of society.’ This obviously includes science and scientists themselves, even more so given the privileged insight and understanding of the problem that they have.

Research on behaviour change shows how important and influential is the modelling of behaviour - people being seen to act differently – to validating, popularising and spreading new ways of living, and in this case with reducing our climate and environmental impact. New social norms emerge from the effect of positive ‘social contagion’. But how far has the science community itself, even the community around climate science, gone to align its activities and own behaviour with the climate challenge. Does it matter if there is a gap between their analysis, a recognition of the problem and what they actually do in their lives and work? If there is a damaging gap between the analysis, professed values of planetary concern and actual behaviour, how can it be closed?

The SGR Responsible Science Conference 2019 will explore these questions with leading speakers, including debates and interactive sessions, together with looking at action towards any potentially greater role that science and scientists can play in preventing climate breakdown, by setting examples for more sustainable behaviour. 

The day will include contributions from:

  • Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh - professor of environmental psychology, based at Cardiff University, director of the new ESRC Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) and an IPCC lead author.
  • Farhana Yamin - is a leading international environmental lawyer, policy expert and activist. Over 30 years her work included climate negotiations, legal advisory and coalition building. She is currently an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Board member of Greenpeace UK and Julie's Bicycle, sits on the Programme Committee and is a member of Extinction Rebellion.
  • Prof Kevin Anderson - joint chair of Energy and Climate Change at the Universities of Manchester (UK) and Uppsala (Sweden),  and previously director and deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
  • Dr Rebecca Willis - is Professor in Practice at Lancaster University, an associate of Green Alliance and a Trustee of the New Economics Foundation, working on energy and climate governance. 
  • Prof Bill McGuire - professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL, and a co-director of the New Weather Institute. His current book is Waking the Giant: how a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.
  • Dr Jan Maskell - chartered psychologist, co-ordinator of SGR's school education programmes, and chair of the Going Green Working Group of the British Psychological Society.


[image credit: iStock]

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