Climate Change and Justice

Expedition: Climate Protection Barriers
Project Name: EmBARK

The signs of climate change have long since become apparent: drought years in Germany, bush fires of unprecedented magnitude in Australia and the USA, or a record breaking tropical storm season in 2020 reveal a changing planet. The ability to adapt to these changes will become increasingly important. However, options for action are distributed differently around the globe and are also inhibited in different ways. In four PhD dissertations, scientists with the budding research group EmBARK are investigating how these obstacles can be overcome.

Photo: Falk Weiß

"Climate change affects us all," says physicist and climate researcher Carl-Friedrich Schleußner. Nevertheless, the ability of different countries around the world to adapt to rising temperatures and sea levels, increasing weather extremes and natural disasters varies greatly. This can be determined by numerous factors including the security or instability of different regions, their governments and their economic situation. Adaptation requires planning, the capacity to implement the necessary measures, financial resources, and a population that is educated and involved. These prerequisites do not exist everywhere to the same degree. Schleußner leads the budding research group Temporal Evolutions of Barriers to Adaptation and their Relevance for Climate Related Loss and Damage (EmBARK) at the Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), where four doctoral candidates are looking at the mechanisms of climate adaptation.

Infografik: Pia Bublies

Will the changes in climate happen faster than the world can adapt to them? How do obstacles affect international climate protection efforts? And what role does gender equality play in the fight against climate change? The research questions of EmBARK encompass aspects of social, economic and the natural sciences and are tackled by an interdisciplinary team including and economist, a human-geographer, a physicist and a philosopher.

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Poorer Countries Are Particularly Affected

The researchers are paying particular attention to regions in which prosperity and industrialization are low. Due to their geographic location, most of the world's poorer countries are especially susceptible to the effects of global warming. In countries like Niger, Peru or Bangladesh, many people earn their living from agriculture and farming – and as such, in a sector that is seriously affected by climate change. Increasing drought threatens the livelihoods of millions of people in Africa, and as the glaciers melt, many important sources of fresh drinking water are lost in Asia and South America. In places where there is weak institutional infrastructure, frequent conflict, corruption and discrimination, it is especially difficult to cope with the effects of climate change.

Photo: Falk Weiß

In their research projects, the young researchers are identifying which challenges the poorest countries in particular are facing: what barriers stand in the way of climate change adaptation? What specific effects to these barriers have, and how can they be overcome? How quickly would people and the climate benefit from this? "It's also about the kinds of political tools we can use to strengthen these countries in the fight against climate change," stresses Carl-Friedrich Schleußner, because: "climate change is not a question for the distant future, rather it is taking place here and now." That is why it is high time to figure out how societies can successfully arm themselves against climate change.

Research group EmBARK, Photo: Falk Weiß

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