Climate change: We need more interdisciplinary dialogue and research

Helene Dyrhauge |

Over the weekend, I had a twitter conversation about who is a climate researcher. Twitter is obviously not the place for deeper and complex conversations. Thus, this blog post explains my argument that it is not helpful to debate who is or is not a climate researcher, instead climate research requires interdisciplinary dialogue and cooperation in order to solve the multiple crises we are facing.

Let me start by outlining the argument I met this weekend. A climate researcher is someone who research the physical and chemical processes in the atmosphere!

I do not disagree that such a person is a climate researcher. My point is that climate research and climate change is much broader because it affects all elements of life on Earth. The changes in the atmosphere affect our ecological systems and socio-economic structures. Thus, everything is connected and to be able to understand these connections we need to talk across disciplines to find ways of breaking the current structures that are causing climate change.

It is not helpful that natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, engineering etc. are standing in our own corner looking at the big climate elephant in the middle of the room whilst trying to understand it from our own perspective. By focusing on disciplinary research alone, we only understand parts of the climate elephant. What we need is for natural scientists and social scientists to talk together. For example, natural scientists show how climate change affects our ecological systems, whilst social scientists identify how socio-economic structures contribute to climate change. Similar, engineering develops technological solutions to mitigate climate change. In short, we need each other to develop successful climate mitigations at all levels and across all areas.

Importantly, many of us are already work with colleagues in other fields on shared climate change problems, which we only can solve through shared research.  Similarly, research grants increasingly require us to develop interdisciplinary research proposals, which often end up with different fields of social sciences, e.g. politics, sociology and geography, working together. Indeed, we need to think wider in terms of our research partners and we have to start talking with colleagues in other fields, who are looking at similar climate change issues. It is only through interdisciplinary research that we can change the projections in the IPCC reports and achieve a low carbon society in 2050.

Does it matter how we define ourselves? Of course, but limiting the definition of a climate researcher to someone studying the atmosphere is not useful when all research from all fields show that climate change is affecting us all in many different ways. Thus, let us move on from this debate over definitions, and instead talk about how we together can solve the climate crises. After all, that is what all the students striking last Friday 15th March, were asking us grownups to do.