Events & Media: John Foran

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



"Climate Justice Movements: Some Working Hypotheses"

John Foran
Professor, Department of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"John Foran is a leading student of social movements who has now turned
his attention to climate change. The result should be a fascinating discussion of
bottom-up approaches to this important problem."

– Oran Young, Bren Professor Emeritus, speaker host


A growing international scientific consensus is emerging that there is now only a 50-percent chance that the official Kyoto target of limiting the rise in average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century would effectively avert irreversible climate change. The latest reports of the IPCC and, in particular, that of Dr. James Hansen, the world’s best-known climate scientist, point toward the need for a new post-Kyoto treaty that will limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or less in hopes of restoring the Earth’s atmosphere to the scientifically established sustainable level of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. (It is currently just under 395 ppm and rising). Meanwhile, existing market-based programs such as carbon cap and trade are failing to constrain the steady increase of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

At the same time, the international climate negotiations process is at an impasse, as the dominant parties to the climate negotiations continue to advance positions completely at odds with each other and with this science, suggesting that humanity is on a collision course with nature.

Since 2008, a powerful global climate justice movement has emerged behind the slogan “System change, not climate change!,” making demands for a binding treaty that is ocially just and scientifically appropriate. To get such a treaty, governments that do not want to vote for it or whose short-term interests and economic elites are not served by signing, will need to be persuaded and/or, possibly, forced to do so by their own national and international constituents.

This talk will introduce a long-term collaborative research project (with Dr. Richard Widick of the Orfalea Center) on the global climate justice movement and the international treaty process, and discuss the implications of this for the future prospects of an Earth in crisis.

John Foran is professor of sociology at UCSB.  His books include Taking Power: On the Origins of Third World Revolutions (Cambridge, 2005) and Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution (Westview, 1993). He is currently working on a book titled Taking Power or (re)Making Power:  Movements for Radical Social Change and Global Justice, and is engaged in ethnographic research on climate justice movements. Two of his recent papers are available on the web: "Earth in Crisis? A Forward-Looking Agenda for Research on the Cultural Causes and Consequences of Climate Change 2010-2020 and Beyond," and “From Critical Globalization Studies and Public Sociology to Global Crisis Studies and Global Justice Work: A Manifesto for Radical Social Change.”

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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