While global warming and climate change has long been a problem plaguing environmental scholars, the University held a conference this past week in hopes of gaining the input of researchers in the social sciences as part of an initiative to increase collaboration on the issue.

ICARUS II: Climate Vulnerability and Adaption: Marginal Peoples and Environments — a University symposium held May 5–8 — sought to bring together scholars, students and activists to discuss climate variability and change.

Natural Resources and Environment Prof. and Associate Dean of Research Arun Agrawal, said the lack of a social sciences perspective on climate change is one of the reasons he decided to develop the conference along with SNRE Associate Prof. Maria Lemos in 2009

Agrawal said close interaction among scholars working on the issue led to the conference’s creation, adding that there were few arenas for individuals to meet and share their research in the field.

“I was working on adaptation to climate change and I kept meeting people who were also working on it and they were always complaining about (these) things,” Agrawal said.

Agrawal emphasized the need for more social scientists to conduct research on climate change in order to facilitate more effective results in helping improve the state or the environment.

“We really need to understand how societies and human beings can adapt to climate change and we really need social scientists to participate in climate change,” he said.

On Saturday, the third day of the conference, about 100 participants from 25 different countries and multiple interdisciplinary backgrounds were present to share and listen to ideas and research on climate change adaptation.

Debora Ley, a Ph.D. candidate at University of Oxford who presented a chapter of her dissertation at the conference, said the event is important in serv as a way for researchers to present current initiatives and possibly develop ways to work together in the future.

“More than a conference or symposium, it’s to bring people together to show what they’ve been doing their research on,” Ley said. “There’s also dialogue tables to see what further collaborations can be done either independently or together.”

Ley — who is studying the criteria under which rural renewable energy systems can simultaneously meet the triple objective of climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and sustainable development of rural communities in Central America — said this conference allowed her to hear about the experiences of other people who are working in the same field as her.

“I like hearing from other people who work in Central America to see what they’ve found to try and work together. I like to network and see who else is doing what,” Ley said.

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