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Climate Change and Humanity, November 2004
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Friday, 12th November 2004
University of Southampton »
Dr. Mark Levene and Dr. David Cromwell
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» Outcomes and feedback

Climate change and humanity: elite perceptions, sustainable solutions

Workshop - outcomes and feedback

Mark Levene and David Cromwell

30 November 2004


First we propose two basic axes of development : university-centric/society-centric

1. The university

Within the university frame of reference: what can Crisis Forum do within the academic community:

a) to develop broad crisis forum - and more specifically applied climate change - research?

b) to bring about a greater university awareness of the issues at stake and how this ought to to impact upon the future role and practice of universities themselves?

c) is there any linkage between these two elements a) and b) ?

2. The broader community

As a group of academics (operating within a broad range of universities)and independent researchers what can we do to assist NGOs and campaigners to alert wider society to the nature of the 21st century crisis - with climate change as key pivot - in order to bring about practical amelioration?

3. Structural issues

Each of these axes and the potential agendas which they imply also raise practical, operational issues as to Crisis Forum structure, resourcing etc.

4. Mission

Additionally, is there some further frame of reference by which the inward-looking academic research is melded with the outward looking social agenda? i.e. is there some special rationale to what we are proposing to do, or could this be better achieved through existing, or some other organisational outfit, or network?

So, to possible outcomes in response to these questions:

1) University

1a) The continuation of projects as previously stated: Climate Change and Violence/Climate Change and Public Opinion to be pursued by relevant teams.

Action: Mark L. to organise a further meeting with Dave Webb, Steve Wright, other interested parties including any prospective Ph.D students to see if we can hammer out coherent research project formula for submission to relevant research councils

David C. likewise to consult further with John Theobald, David Miller, Justin Lewis etc

Assistance; anybody who can offer possible contacts/names for these specific ventures welcomed. And anybody who would like to participate directly in these teams please contact ML or DC directly. Any aspiring Ph.D students especially welcomed (with the proviso that no funding exists until we have cracked the research councils!)

Funding: requires research funding at some level

1b) acting as a pressure group within universities:

working on the assumption that a group of Crisis Forum academics has a legitimate role to bring issue of climate change/crisis to broader university attention with a view to lobbying universities for change - as sign-posted by the letters to THES/Nature - the Crisis Forum remit might include an ongoing information campaign on climate change geared specifically to a university-based constituency (academic and other staff)

Action: creation of discipline by discipline information/database on relevance of climate change to curricula of each and developed through website.

Assistance : a preferably university-based individual or small group required to volunteer to organise a small team of academics and/or other researchers from broad disciplinary range to write relevant information collate, (also liaise with trade unions) and then to disseminate widely

Funding: likely to require substantial, ongoing funding

1c) project and protest might find synergy through a series of research-council funded feasibility projects exploring how individual universities could be most effectively 'greened' in the most broad sense.

Action/Assistance: Purely an idea as of this moment. Your views on value of ideas solicited. Might best be developed through a series of Ph.D and/or other collaborative graduate dissertations.

Funding: likely to require some very serious research council or EU funding

2. The broader community

2a) book:

ML/DC to develop a Crisis Forum book proposal on basis of core workshop presentations (and additional contributions) geared to a progressive publishing house.

Aim: to assess current elite responses to climate change and counter-culture response (offering a variety of different perspectives but with Contraction and Convergence signposted as the coherent pan- global resolution)

Action: ML/DC to follow-through via key participants. but if anybody else has a potential contribution to offer, please contact ML.

2b) Crisis Forum as Clearing house

Aim: The notion of Crisis Forum as a think-tank or clearing house has already been
mooted in abstract terms. :leaving aside the think-tank concept, that of a Crisis Forum group acting as a conduit between specialised university researchers (with a holistic approach) and NGOs/other bodies who might be able to utilise and act upon their expertise, has been further developed to us by workshop participant and FOE chairman, Sam Clarke, who argues for it as an informal basis for 'a two-way flow in ideas and information.' As Sam also notes, the clearing house would not have to be confined to specific climate change or environmental issues per se. Indeed, Crisis Forum's broader agenda could act as umbrella for a wide range of potential participants in such a list.

Action: would require a degree of permanence and a worker (in all likelihood) to develop and nurture a database of academics and NGO organisations of this kind, assuming feasibility. As Sam adds, ' It would all need a good deal of research'. Requires creation of a working group to consider further (any offers?)

Funding: would most certainly require underpinning in some shape or form, plus possible resources in terms of dedicated computer/possible office etc.

3. Structural issues

These various possibilities raise quite serious and substantive issues vis-a-vis input (ie human resource!) in order to develop these remits and putting a framework in place which can cohere what we are proposing to do in an inclusive manner. The imagined structure will in turn be critical in shaping the Crisis Forum persona (and credibility) to the academic community and outside world. But incremental development of this nature also carries with it fundamental funding issues.

We emphasise that Crisis Forum was founded as an independent initiative which currently operates with the goodwill of Southampton University, and some limited funding for the workshop (Southampton University, Worldwide University Network (WUN) plus also more limited funding again from the Lippman-Miliband Trust for initiating the website). Both David C. and Mark L. have full-time posts in their respective departments.

Jonathan Ward has very properly raised the issue of the creation of a non-hierarchical steering group as the next step. His proposal is very much worth exploring:

'a rotating steering panel with positions of specific responsibility could be useful.

These positions would be paired (i.e. split between two people) to reduce workload and to ensure the likelihood that tasks will get done. In my view, this panel could consist of the disparate and necessary different groups that crisis-forum had at the workshop. So, there would be NGO, governmental, academic, activist, charity, media and business representation (that is not to say that this is the full extent, but just suggestions). Within this panel, people would be paired-up and take charge of organising key areas of crisis-forum's remit.

For example maybe two people could head a fundraising section, two for media analysis, two for academic knowledge transfer (to grass-roots)and so on. They are not managers per se, just people to steer and organise proceedings in these areas. Ideally the pairings would be two people from different backgrounds. I just think this sort of structure may be needed to propel things forward. Larger scale decisions should still be made by common consensus.'

Action: David and I propose that a further meeting is convened of anybody interested in having a fuller input into the development of Crisis Forum. This could be under aegis of the further venue offered by Dave Webb at Leeds but insofar as 'structure' is concerned would be specifically geared towards examining resource, funding and personnel issues.

Further action/assistance: we invite any participant to contact us re: a more direct commitment to further development.

We further ask all participants to offer suggestions as to where/to whom we can go with a view to developing long-term independent funding relationships and any other contacts which might be pertinent to our development.

4. Mission

The November 12 workshop in itself posed a possible longer-term niche for Crisis Forum in bringing together concerned and committed individuals with similar areas of interest and expertise yet who would not otherwise normally meet in a 'professional' capacity. The workshop in the sense of moving across both disciplinary and occupational boundaries was novel. But there is no reason why it has to be limited thus.

A further workshop was already envisaged prior to this one, with a remit which might consider more practical and technical issues of response and adaptation to the reality of climate change; again, this time involving in addition to a range of academics in for instance, engineering, or preventative medicine, other hands-on practitioners in local government, builders, architects, companies working on renewable energy, etc etc - as well as campaigners.

We invite comment on this possibility and throw the question open as to whether anybody other than David and myself would like to pursue this further workshop under the approximate aegis of Crisis Forum?

Similarly, one might argue that a form of university: society cross-over lies in the pursuit of the Crisis Forum agenda vis-a-vis HMG (Her Majesty's Government!) itself. We note thus that Defra has been tasked to organise 'an international scientific conference to assess the scientific issues associated with stabilising greenhouse gases' in February 2005 (Hadley Centre, Exeter) yet notably with either i) pure science, ii) technological fixes, not simply privileged but heralded as if these are the only parameters for discussion. We would propose that one role Crisis Forum has in the public arena is to refute this narrow bias and argue rather that the challenges of anthropogenic climate change have passed way beyond an elite scientific or engineering discourse and are now urgent questions of societal, political, economic, epidemiological and geo-strategic analysis.

In other words, in conclusion we propose that:

a) Crisis Forum also has a role as a lobby group operating primarily (but not exclusively) from within an academic frame but challenging the narrow assumptions and wisdoms under which HMG - and others - are responding to the crisis of climate change

b) that, to this effect, that Crisis Forum puts together a brief critique of the Defra agenda (see http://www.stabilisation2005.com/) and requests at the very least observer status at this event. We also invite in this capacity workshop participants and others to offer their own papers (or comments) for submission to the Defra event under a Forum aegis, or an aegis in which Forum is one critical component.

Mark Levene and David Cromwell

30 November 2004

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