The failure at COP15 in Copenhagen in December highlights that the greatest challenge to climate change lies in politics and policy processes. This calls for social scientific studies that can study such multi-level and cross-national policy processes.
I have reported before on this blog about a bunch of sociologist in the COMPON study, which is a good example of how social science can engage in bringing understanding on cross-scale linkages. The study was recently commented upon in Nature.
COMPON (Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks) is coordinated by the tireless Jeffrey Broadbent from University of Minnesota, that together with researchers in 15 countries is pulling of this big reserach effort. Among these we have centre reseracher Christofer Edling and Stockholm University sociologist Marcus Carson.
In an interview with Stockholm University Marcus Carson says that by pairing social network analysis with interviews and document analysis, the COMPON project aims to:
… gather data from organizations such as environmental NGOs, conservative think tanks, human-rights groups, political organizations and so on and get a better understanding of what shapes and motivates their actions.
[These actors, and humans in general] use conceptual models to make sense of the information, but these models include not only what is happening and how, but what kinds of actions should be taken and who to trust for information. Sociological research helps us clarify how these models are constructed and how they are promoted among different groups in society. A better understanding of these factors improves our chances of developing policies that support long-term sustainability.
On their homepage, COMPON writes (and see their blog):
The project […] studying the factors that account for cross-national variation in efforts to mitigate climate change. This variation arises from difference in the interaction process between ways of thinking (discourse) and ways of acting (coalitions) in national cases. The COMPON project currently has teams in over 15 societies (developed, developing, and transitional) and at the international level collecting equivalent empirical data on these processes using content analysis, interview, and inter-organizational network survey.