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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Lectures 2015

 

Most of our public lectures are available on video!


Responding to climate change: perceptions, behaviours and learning

THESys Lecture


Thurs, 23 April 2015, 5.15 pm, HU's main building, room 2093

As climate negotiations gear up to the Paris COP21 later this year, nations are producing pledges indicating their potential contributions to emissions reductions and overall climate change mitigation. Often policy makers cite citizen support for environmental policies as crucial for their implementation and success. Yet there seems to be fluctuating interest among publics in climate change and varying forms of engagement.  This begs the question of how individuals relate to environmental change and how they relate this to the climate. How does understanding of climate change relate to action and policy support? This talk will explore, drawing from evidence from a variety of studies and research strands, what climate change means, the significance it bears and how it relates to experienced events. The lecture will also consider these aspects in relation to existing climate policy developments and future ambitions.
 

Irene Lorenzoni is interested in how individuals, groups and collectives perceive the challenges of global environmental change, how they engage and respond to them. As an environmental social scientist, her research examines the relationships between individual perceptions and understandings of environmental issues - specifically climate change, its causes and consequences over different timescales - and behavioural change. As a result, her research also spans the areas of adaptation and resilience, environmental policy and decision-making, sustainable development. She pursues these strands drawing from a variety of social science disciplines including psychology, sociology, political sciences, science and technology studies.  Her recent work includes understanding individual and institutional engagement with climate change both in terms of mitigation and adaptation; the role of social capital in adaptation; public attitudes towards energy options; the evolution of climate change policy; conceptualisations of time and the future, responses to extreme events. She is a member of the Science Society and Sustainability (3S) Research Group at UEA and of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Location: Humboldt-Universität, Unter den Linden 6, room 2093

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Climate Policy – A Social Dilemma?

THESys Lecture


Thurs, 21 May 2015, 5.15 pm, Grimm-Zentrum/Auditorium

From a global point of view, conducting climate policy should for all intents and purposes be a “no-brainer”. However, as the UN climate conferences have shown, a global agreement on curbing emissions is still hard if not impossible to reach. One major obstacle to overcome is the lack of global institutions that are able to enforce binding emission reductions. Given that in this sense all contributions to climate protection are voluntary, the question arises why not everybody chooses to free-ride. Why is the EU implementing a relatively ambitious – at least in the international context – climate policy, even if hardly anybody seems to follow? Can this behavior be rational or should the EU cut their losses and reduce its climate policy ambitions? Can social norms contribute to an explanation of this behavior? Can they overcome the social dilemma that seems to be inherent in climate policy? It is these types of questions that will be addressed in the lecture.
 

Karen Pittel heads the department Energy, Environment and Exhaustible Resources at the Ifo Institute and is professor of economics at the University of Munich. She received her academic education at universities in Germany, Switzerland and the US. Karen’s research interests are in resource, energy and climate economics. She is a member of the council of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists and the German Committee Future Earth. She is also associate editor of Environment and Development Economics.

Location: Humboldt-Universität, Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum, Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 3, 10117 Berlin, Auditorium (ground floor)

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Urban infrastructures in energy transitions: between cure and curse

THESys Lecture


Thurs, 11 June 2015, 5.15 pm, Grimm-Zentrum/Auditorium

The infrastructures that underpin human settlements – both physically and figuratively – in providing essential energy, water and waste services were until recently largely immune to public scrutiny. They constituted an ‘invisible city’ of pipes, ducts, appliances and plant hidden underground or beyond the urban gaze which – so long as they continued to function satisfactorily – did not attract particular attention. Consumers took the infrastructures they used for granted, policy makers saw no need to question their developmental function, utilities were happy to be left alone, whilst researchers were content to tinker with technological modernisation. With growing intensity since the 1980s, however, infrastructures have been thrust into the limelight, as societies increasingly query their purpose, design, impacts, ownership and regulation. What began with calls for the liberalisation and privatisation of utility services has extended today to encompass responses to climate change, adaptation to demographic change, consumer rights, environmental degradation and development goals. This new ‘visibility’ of infrastructures is reflected in academia, in particular in social science debates on socio-technical transitions. Infrastructures, today, are no longer the “Cinderella” of urban studies (Graham/Marvin 2001). 

In his lecture Timothy Moss wants to unpack the different ways in which urban infrastructures (understood as socio-technical configurations) are being addressed in policy and research today and, from this analysis, to identify promising avenues for future scientific enquiry pertinent to IRI THESys. To this end he focuses on the role of urban infrastructures in energy transitions. He begins by setting up the current debate on energy infrastructures in terms of contrasting positions. On the one hand infrastructures are seen as a cure to current problems, enabling transitions via technical modernisation. On the other hand they are viewed as a curse, hindering change by virtue of their obduracy and path dependency. From the vantage point of this polarised debate, he then introduces more nuanced approaches to urban infrastructures, drawing on the recent literature to advance a deeper understanding of how infrastructures work in different ways as interfaces. The interfaces he highlights are, firstly, between society and nature, secondly, between provision and consumption and, thirdly, between the urban and the rural. For each he explores the mediating function exercised by – or, at least, attributed to – infrastructures and what this means in terms of their societal value. Timothy Moss concludes by mapping out areas for future research according to three strands which characterise his own research: a) politics of infrastructures, b) histories of infrastructures and c) geographies of infrastructures. Throughout the talk he will draw for illustration on the chequered history of Berlin’s energy infrastructures.
 

Timothy Moss

Timothy Moss has been a member of the research staff at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning (IRS) since 1993, where he heads the research department Institutional Change and Regional Public Goods. He has a B.A. in European Studies from Sussex University, an M.Phil. in Modern European History from Oxford University, where he also obtained his doctorate in German municipal history. His research revolves around processes of institutional change relating to public goods and their spatiality in general, and urban infrastructure systems in particular. Since June 2014, Dr. Timothy Moss is a member of IRI THESys.

Location: Humboldt-Universität, Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum, Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 3, 10117 Berlin, Auditorium (ground floor)

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See overview.