Contact Details:

1, rue Miollis
75732 Paris Cedex 15

Tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 48 60
Fax: +33 (0)1 45 68 48 62


Global Environmental Change Activities

The ISSC has been promoting international research on the social and human dimensions of global environmental change (GEC) since the early 1990s. It has done so primarily through support and co-sponsorship of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). The ISSC continues to work alongside the IHDP’s other co-sponsors – the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the United Nations University (UNU) – to promote the programme’s scientific profile and institutional base.

Towards the end of 2008, the ISSC strengthened its profile in GEC research by becoming a co-sponsor of a new international programme on natural and human-induced hazards: the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Programme (IRDR).

During 2009, the ISSC started giving further prominence to GEC issues amongst its key activities: the first ever World Social Science Forum (WSSF) included a plenary session on this topic, with a keynote address on Can science save us? Challenges for the social sciences from climate change by Professor Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC. These challenges were also raised in the 2010 World Social Science Report (WSSR).

Towards the end of 2009, the ISSC Executive Committee agreed to develop – in partnership with the IHDP and other stakeholders – a focused strategy for mobilising a broader and stronger social science response to GEC, including the engagement of mainstream social sciences. This decision built on the increasingly sharp demand for the social sciences to contribute to understanding and responding to GEC, as well as the ISSC’s active involvement in a series of international initiatives that have been launched to map GEC research challenges, establish the necessary organisational, governance and funding arrangements, and mobilise international scientific communities.

One such initiative is the Earth System Visioning Process, led by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in collaboration with the ISSC. This process, which concluded in 2011, aimed to develop options for a holistic international strategy for integrated, policy relevant earth system research for global sustainability. One of the key outputs of this process is the Grand Challenges framework for Earth System Research for Sustainability, the report on which is summarised in a policy forum editorial published in the November 2010 issue of Science.

Another key international initiative is the Belmont Forum, a high level group of major funders of global environmental change research, and its Belmont Challenge: “To deliver knowledge needed for action to avoid and adapt to deleterious environmental change including extreme hazardous events.” In January 2010, the Belmont Forum invited the ISSC to represent the international social science community as a member of the Forum.

More recently, based on the strategic convergence of their priorities and the work already undertaken in relation to the Belmont Challenge and the Earth System Visioning Process, the ISSC, ICSU and the Belmont Forum have formed a Global Alliance, aiming to jointly establish a new 10-year Earth System Sustainability Initiative (ESSI). UNEP, UNU and UNESCO have now joined the Global Alliance. The ESSI, currently in development, is intended to deliver knowledge to enable societies to meet their sustainable development goals in the coming decades.

As a response to the increased demand for social science research on climate change, and the lack of adequate research funding at the global level to meet that demand, the ISSC is currently undertaking a Climate Change Design Project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The project, which will run until June 2012, intends to design a 10-year global climate change research funding and coordination initiative for social science research on climate change and broader GEC. This is to be done in collaboration with ISSC members, programmes, partners and the wider international social science research, funding and policy communities.

It will draw on the ISSC’s involvement in the range of GEC initiatives listed above, as well as inputs from the following additional activities from the international ISSC GEC portfolio: