Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations

Climate change threatens the well-being of the Earth. The threats are grave and imminent. Indeed, climate change has already begun to harm human communities and the environment. As a group of legal experts concerned about global climate change and its disastrous effects on the planet and on life, we have come together to identify and articulate a set of Principles that comprise the essential obligations States and enterprises have to avert the critical level of global warming.

On March 1, 2015, a group of experts in international law, human rights law, environmental law, and other law adopted the Oslo Principles on Global Obligations to Reduce Climate Change. The experts came from national and international courts, universities and organizations located in every region of the world. Based on extensive legal research and discussions over a period of several years, which culminated in a meeting in Oslo, Norway, in 2014, the undersigned experts adopted the principles contained in this Occasional Paper.


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Biodiversity increases the Resistance of Ecosystem productivity to Climate extremes

It remains unclear whether biodiversity buffers ecosystems against climate extremes, which are becoming increasingly frequent worldwide. Early results suggested that the ecosystem productivity of diverse grassland plant communities was more resistant, changing less during drought, and more resilient, recovering more quickly after drought, than that of depauperate communities. However, subsequent experimental tests produced mixed results. Here we use data from 46 experiments that manipulated grassland plant diversity to test whether biodiversity provides resistance during and resilience after climate events. We show that biodiversity increased ecosystem resistance for a broad range of climate events, including wet or dry, moderate or extreme, and brief or prolonged events. Across all studies and climate events, the productivity of low-diversity communities with one or two species changed by approximately 50% during climate events, whereas that of high-diversity communities with 16–32 species was more resistant, changing by only approximately 25%. By a year after each climate event, ecosystem productivity had often fully recovered, or overshot, normal levels of productivity in both high- and low-diversity communities, leading to no detectable dependence of ecosystem resilience on biodiversity. Our results suggest that biodiversity mainly stabilizes ecosystem productivity, and productivity-dependent ecosystem services, by increasing resistance to climate events. Anthropogenic environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss thus seem likely to decrease ecosystem stability, and restoration of biodiversity to increase it, mainly by changing the resistance of ecosystem productivity to climate events.


Read also: Ecosystem Biodiversity a key Climate Change buffer

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Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives

Climate change is one of the most critical issues of the twenty-first century, presenting a major intellectual challenge to both the natural and social sciences. While there has been significant progress in natural science understanding of climate change, social science analyses have not been as fully developed. Climate Change and Society breaks new theoretical and empirical ground by presenting climate change as a thoroughly social phenomenon, embedded in behaviors, institutions, and cultural practices. This collection of essays summarizes existing approaches to understanding the social, economic, political, and cultural dimensions of climate change. From the factors that drive carbon emissions to those which influence societal responses to climate change, the volume provides a comprehensive overview of the social dimensions of climate change. An improved understanding of the complex relationship between climate change and society is essential for modifying ecologically harmful human behaviors and institutional practices, creating just and effective environmental policies, and developing a more sustainable future. Climate Change and Society provides a useful tool in efforts to integrate social science research, natural science research, and policymaking regarding climate change and sustainability. Produced by the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change, this book presents a challenging shift from the standard climate change discourse, and offers a valuable resource for students, scholars, and professionals involved in climate change research and policy.


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Global Assemblages, Resilience, and Earth Stewardship in the Anthropocene

In this paper, we argue that the Anthropocene is an epoch characterized not only by the anthropogenic dominance of the Earth’s ecosystems but also by new forms of environmental governance and institutions. Echoing the literature in political ecology, we call these new forms of environmental governance “global assemblages”. Socioecological changes associated with global assemblages disproportionately impact poorer nations and communities along the development continuum, or the “Global South”, and others who depend on natural resources for subsistence. Although global assemblages are powerful mechanisms of socioecological change, we show how transnational networks of grassroots organizations are able to resist their negative social and environmental impacts, and thus foster socioecological resilience.


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The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship

Over the past century, the total material wealth of humanity has been enhanced. However, in the twenty-first century, we face scarcity in critical resources, the degradation of ecosystem services, and the erosion of the planet’s capability to absorb our wastes. Equity issues remain stubbornly difficult to solve. This situation is novel in its speed, its global scale and its threat to the resilience of the Earth System. The advent of the Anthropocene, the time interval in which human activities now rival global geophysical processes, suggests that we need to fundamentally alter our relationship with the planet we inhabit. Many approaches could be adopted, ranging from geoengineering solutions that purposefully manipulate parts of the Earth System to becoming active stewards of our own life support system. The Anthropocene is a reminder that the Holocene, during which complex human societies have developed, has been a stable, accommodating environment and is the only state of the Earth System that we know for sure can support contemporary society. The need to achieve effective planetary stewardship is urgent. As we go further into the Anthropocene, we risk driving the Earth System onto a trajectory toward more hostile states from which we cannot easily return.


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Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene

Bruno Latour. I think that it is easy for us to agree that, in modernism, people are not equipped with the mental and emotional repertoire to deal with such a vast scale of events; that they have difficulty submitting to such a rapid acceleration for which, in addition, they are supposed to feel responsible while, in the meantime, this call for action has none of the traits of their older revolutionary dreams. How can we simultaneously be part of such a long history, have such an important influence, and yet be so late in realizing what has happened and so utterly impotent in our attempts to fix it?

While the older problem of science studies was to understand the active role of scientists in the construction of facts, a new problem arises: how to understand the active role of human agency not only in the construction of facts, but also in the very existence of the phenomena those facts are trying to document? The many important nuances between facts, news, stories, alarms, warnings, norms, and duties are all mixed up. This is why it is so important to try to clarify a few of them anew. Especially when we are trying to understand how we could shift from economics to ecology, given the old connection between those two disciplines and the “scientific worldview.”


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Community-Driven Research in the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene is defined by the unprecedented global impact human society has made, and will continue to make, on the Earth system. In the Anthropocene, the gulf between scientific  understanding and civic decision-making simultaneously increases the likelihood of disaster, our vulnerability to natural hazards, and the inequity of their impact. Anticipating, mitigating, and recovering from disasters, therefore, requires the integration of multiple kinds of scientific knowledge into the broader social context used to support decisions. In other words, living in the Anthropocene requires we bring science and society closer together. Our continuing descent into the Anthropocene argues for a new approach.

To address the challenges of the Anthropocene, humans need to integrate scientific knowledge into their ways of thinking about the world and making decisions. An effective way to do that is to add participatory approaches to the portfolio of scientific methods. The most engaging of these approaches is community-driven science: developing and answering questions that are driven by the needs and priorities of specific, local, diverse nonscientific communities. Community-driven science includes both practical strategies and a shift toward a more inclusive worldview that places science alongside, rather than above, other ways of knowing. In short, as scientists and educators, we need to do science with people, not for them or at them.


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Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene

Bruno Latour. If the idea of naming the period – or epoch, some say even era – “Anthropocene” resonates so deeply for the better and maybe for the worse (you will have to decide at the end of my lecture) with the name of your discipline, it is because it builds upon several of the same fault lines as those upon which anthropology had established its fragile tenements for many decades.

First, the very idea of the Anthropocene places the “human agency” smack in the center of attention. For you to be “anthropocentric” does not come as a great surprise, but it is certainly a complete shock to stratigraphers used to studying million-year-old pebbles and to digging up sediments deposited long before humans ever appeared as a distinct species.

Second, this new concept defines the human agency by drawing on a bewildering range of entities, some clearly related to the “natural” sciences – biochemistry, DNA, evolutionary trends, rock formation, ecosystem – while others clearly relate to what ethnographers have learned to register throughout their field work – patterns of land use, migrations of plants, animal and people, city life, trajectory of epidemics, demography, inequalities, classes and state policies. In other words, to designate the present period as that of the Anthropocene is to tell all the other disciplines that the task of joining “physical” and “cultural anthropology” is no longer your own undertaking, but what suddenly, without you having even asked for help, hundreds of subfields are also busy doing. Everybody it seems is now converging on the same problem, ready to make the same mistakes and to live through the same traumatic experience as what the discipline of anthropology as a whole had lived through since the beginning of the 19th century: namely, how to get bones and divinities fit together.


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Anthropogenesis: Origins and Endings in the Anthropocene

If the Anthropocene represents a new epoch of thought, it also represents a new form of materiality and historicity for the human as strata and stratigrapher of the geologic record. This collision of human and inhuman histories in the strata is a new formation of subjectivity within a geologic horizon that redefines temporal, material, and spatial orders of the human (and thus nature). I argue that the Anthropocene contains within it a form of Anthropogenesis – a new origin story and ontics for man – that radically rewrites material modes of differentiation and concepts of life, from predominantly biopolitical notions of life toward an understanding of life’s geophysical origination (geontics). Here, I use the term Anthropogenesis to suggest that two things explicitly happen in the nomination of the Anthropocene: 1) the production of a mythic Anthropos as geologic world-maker/destroyer of worlds, and 2) a material, evolutionary narrative that re-imagines human origins and endings within a geologic rather than an exclusively biological context. In contrast to the homogeneous geomorphizing of the Anthropocene, I suggest that socializing the strata needs a more nuanced notion of ‘geologic life’ that challenges the construction of the Anthropocene as an undifferentiated social stratification.


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Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

Soaring income inequality and unemployment, expanding populations of the displaced and imprisoned, accelerating destruction of land and water bodies: today’s socioeconomic and environmental dislocations cannot be fully understood in the usual terms of poverty and injustice, according to Saskia Sassen. They are more accurately understood as a type of expulsion–from professional livelihood, from living space, even from the very biosphere that makes life possible. This hard-headed critique updates our understanding of economics for the twenty-first century, exposing a system with devastating consequences even for those who think they are not vulnerable. From finance to mining, the complex types of knowledge and technology we have come to admire are used too often in ways that produce elementary brutalities. These have evolved into predatory formations–assemblages of knowledge, interests, and outcomes that go beyond a firm’s or an individual’s or a government’s project. Sassen draws surprising connections to illuminate the systemic logic of these expulsions. The sophisticated knowledge that created today’s financial “instruments” is paralleled by the engineering expertise that enables exploitation of the environment, and by the legal expertise that allows the world’s have-nations to acquire vast stretches of territory from the have-nots. Expulsions lays bare the extent to which the sheer complexity of the global economy makes it hard to trace lines of responsibility for the displacements, evictions, and eradications it produces–and equally hard for those who benefit from the system to feel responsible for its depredations.


Read also: At the systemic edge

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