THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CLIMATE ACTION AND THEORY is a public-facing climate-focused transformative knowledge network, research collaboration think tank and media hub. This website is our research archive — like a public file cabinet with which we share our sources and publish our work.
Our Mission begins with the better understanding of global warming, climate change, and the ensuing international struggle to institute the just rule of law in defense of planetary ecology and its constituent peoples and species.
Toward that end, we work to render climate science, economic history, civil society (including its constituent social movements), and the institutions of emergent global economic and environmental governance accessible to the general public—while also striving to make such lay-knowledge available and useful to a wide range of interdisciplinary scientists, NGOs, scholars, theorists and activists.
We believe that the sharpest tool for shaping international climate policy in the interest of climate justice and human rights is our understanding and use of the founding speech of the global governing institutions themselves, namely: the United Nations Charter (pdf), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (pdf), The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC.int) (pdf), and most recently the Paris Agreement (pdf).
These institution-creating documents set up a perpetual public process of policy-making discourse.
If today these international institutions appear to be failing, not reaching their potential, or even reneging on their promise, because the problems of maintaining and expanding human rights and economic and environmental justice that they seek to solve appear to be getting worse, not better, that suggests that renewed study of their founding speech and constitutional documents would be beneficial.
In 2016 IICAT launched a new 5-year conflict-seeking participatory-action research project aimed at understanding emergent global economic and environmental self-governance by:
- participating in the UN climate talks
- building the climate justice movement
- and producing public knowledge for global civil participation (in the form of iicat.org itself, the academic analyses here published, our regular academic publication of books and journal articles, and our innovative film analyses and production).
We do this work in the interest of fostering new collaborations and synthesizing new data and skills that together stand a better chance of contributing to the equitable mitigation of global warming and the expansion of human rights.
FROM MITIGATION TO CLIMATE JUSTICE
Because the concept of mitigation means the lessening of emissions in order to slow the pace of the planet’s present warming trend, and not the elimination of that warming, it implies a scenario requiring adaptation to global warming that is already locked in by historical emissions.
But the concept of adaptation itself leads even further—to the recognition that loss and damage from climate change is already occurring, especially among the least developed and poorest countries, whom for historical and geographical reasons stand most in the need of financial help and technological assistance in order to survive the associated social and ecological challenges.
Here we see how quickly the science of global warming and climate change leads to questions of climate justice, for the science currently predicts that carbon-fueled industrial development to date, which has disproportionately benefited the most industrially developed countries of the global north, is on target to produce a minimum average of 4 degrees Celsius warming this century, and more likely a 6 degree increase or higher, the negative impacts of which are likely to fall disproportionately on the least developed, least prepared nations of the global south.
This direct path from the science of climate change to the politics of climate justice raises complex ethical questions about power and governance, while also demonstrating how the problems associated with global warming already require an interdisciplinary response from all interested parties.
At IICAT, we work to bridge the domains of academic science and the hands-on work of building appropriate legal, policy, program and social movement responses at every scale, local to global.
We hope users of this site will find resources and insights that help them develop solutions relevant to their specific jobs, projects, programs, and movements, as well as help them contribute to the global struggle for climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable development, and ethical climate governance.
IICAT: DEVELOPING KNOWLEDGE FOR CLIMATE ACTION & ETHICAL CLIMATE GOVERNANCE
By international we mean that IICAT moves in the space shared by the new transnational social movements, the global brainstorm of intellectuals and culture producers, and the contested institutions of global economic and environmental governance (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc.).
By institute we mean a place, a space, and a goal – to bring people and ideas together to create and synthesize knowledge to inform climate action and advance climate justice.
By climate action we mean climate action policy for mitigation and adaptation to global warming and the social movements that demand climate action policies that are scientifically sound, prompt, and socially just.
By theory we mean critical theory: the production and synthesis of useful knowledge that negates the social and ecological failures of current social organization—and in this case that means knowledge informing and leading systematic social transformation away from unsustainable fossil fuel-driven industrial economic activity and toward sustainable development fueled instead by clean renewable energy sources.
PUBLIC SOCIOLOGY — social science inside the struggle for global climate justice
IICAT scholars use every method in the social science tool box to study all of the social forces constitutive of the struggle to protect the fragile climate of planet earth, including:
1) the economic actors whose collective labor is driving anthropogenic climate change (both state run and private corporations, labor unions, workers, consumers, the advertising system, etc.), and
2) all of the manifold civil society groups (Non-Governmental Organizations) and social movements that each in their own way participate in emergent global economic and environmental governance, globalization, and the ensuing ecological crises.
3) the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), its signatory nations, their domestic climate policies, and their national contributions to the UN climate talks, especially their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, adopted at the UN climate talks in Paris, France, December 12, 2015.
We see each of these social forces as themselves constituted by myriad smaller scale social forces.
For example, the economy as a social force shaping emergent global environmental governance is itself constituted by the forces of corporations, various work forces, labor unions, and individuals whose labor energy and consumption practices contribute to the production process.
In this context, it is crucial to understand that social forces are not things—rather, each one must be conceived dialectically as the emergent outcome of conflicting social interactions among individuals and groups directing their attention and their efforts toward common objects.
The distinguishing characteristic of our method is this dialectical, conflict seeking participatory action research, by which we mean the opposite of cool, detached observation of and reflection on these social forces.
Simply put, we study all of the social forces engaged in climate politics and their interaction at every scale.
CLIMATE JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS
After the Paris Agreement
John Foran and Richard Widick are presently engaged in a five year research project investigating the changing conditions of possibility for the realization of climate justice and human rights after the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Foran and Widick are also co-founding members of the Environmental & Climate Justice Studies Research Hub (EJ/CJ) at the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
With EJ/CJ colleague Ken Hiltner, Professor of English Literature at UCSB, Foran produced a Nearly Carbon Neutral Conference titled Activists, Artists, and Academics: Building Just Climate Futures Together.
Foran, Hiltner and Widick participated in a panel at the conference titled Creating a Field: Climate Justice Studies.
For his contribution, Widick delivered the following video talk presentation, For Climate Justice Studies – Focus on the Object — Pedagogical Spectacles of Power & Counter-Power.
For Climate Justice Studies – Focus on the Object – Pedagogical Spectacles of Power & Counter-Power, video talk presentation to the conference panel titled Creating a Field – Climate Justice Studies, for the Nearly Carbon Neutral Conference at UCSB – Artists, Activists, and Academics: Building Just Climate Futures Together, Summer 2017: SYNOPSIS – Creating the field of Climate Justice Studies will require sustained reflection on what such a discipline should take as its central objects of investigation. In this talk I argue from theoretical grounds and empirical evidence, derived from years of participatory observation inside the UN climate talks, that one key object of Climate Justice Studies must be the public sphere spectacle of power that is the yearly convocation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences of the Parties. Power understood dialectically always begets resistance, and so we arrive at the yearly rhythm of power and counter-power putting themselves on display … a pedagogy of masses tuning into the hyper-mediated public struggles that I see reproducing and potentially reshaping both globalization and the unfolding climate crisis. From our temporal vantage point here, early in the 21st century, I see future decades of perpetual public sphere struggle over global climate policy through the historical lens of the preceding decades of struggle over global economic policy.
:Additional critical, significant, impactful and insightful sources:
President, Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice
Speaking at Climate Law Day, Sorbonne University, Paris, France, December 4, 2015
recorded by Richard Widick, Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies & the Environmental & Climate Justice Studies Research Hub (EJ/CJ) for IICAT Films, in association with Metroglobe Productions
President, Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice
Speaking at UNFCCC COP 23, side event
2020: The necessary, desirable and achievable turning point to safeguard our climate
November 14, 2017 Bonn, Germany
recorded by Richard Widick, Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies & the Environmental & Climate Justice Studies Research Hub (EJ/CJ) — for IICAT Films, in association with Metroglobe Productions