COP21 and the need for transdisciplinary efforts

by Nichole Weber’15

As the Conference of Parties meeting (COP21) comes to a close, many are lauding the widely accepted agreement of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius while also adding the ambitious target of 1.5 degrees. Many leaders are looking to this a good starting point, but with an ambitious target. Reaching the ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees will require a few key issues, namely: reducing fossil fuels–rapidly, moving towards near zero emissions, the necessity of carbon capture, policy changes, and moving to assist developed countries move past dirty energy sources. Limiting global warming will require interdisciplinary leaders and coalitions of business, policy, government, nongovernmental agencies, and local communities to simultaneously mitigate and adapt to climate change. Interdisciplinary work will be key to mitigation and adaptation.

Addressing mitigation and adaptation in less developed countries brings challenges for both developed and developing countries. Developed countries have currently pledged 100 billion dollars to assist less developed countries, among the most vulnerable to climate change, the most with adaptation. However, there are many challenges to implementing climate adaptation efforts including incorporation of local and indigenous knowledge and building infrastructural capacity to absorb climate adaptation funds in a long-term and manageable way. This will require the concerted effort of interdisciplinary practitioners.

Interdisciplinary practitioners can understand a breadth of knowledge within a given field, while they also have knowledge and exposure to other disciplines. This allows a space to think across disciplines and coupled environmental and social problems. The challenge to interdisciplinary researchers is to not privilege one discipline or understanding over another. For instance, climate adaptation efforts in developed countries will require a wide understanding of the effects of climate both current and projected on local communities. This information will also be necessary for implementing adaptation strategies that address infrastructure, policies, and economic and social needs. We need to address the urgent issues of moving towards near zero emissions, the necessity of carbon capture, policy changes, and moving to assist developed countries move past dirty energy sources. These challenges are not mutually exclusive, but part of coupled human and natural dimensions. Thus, addressing climate change will require balanced transdisciplinary efforts and practitioners to reach the ambitious target of keeping the warming of our planet under 1.5 degrees.

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