Between climate knowledge and climate action:

Towards developing local and regional action groups for climate protection

Adapting to and mitigating climate change pose enormous challenges for society at large, the political and business sectors, and the scientific community alike: in the context of international climate conferences, various climate protection protocols are being negotiated and ratified, while the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) has been consolidating the outcomes of climate change research efforts from around the globe, and translating them into concrete recommendations for government and political processes, for decades. Especially in Germany, there are now a great number of state-initiated measures and processes at the national and regional level, ranging from regenerative energy production using solar technology, to new concepts for E-mobility, to using greening to insulate the roofs of houses in metropolises and other cities. In addition, the issue of climate change has since become a mainstay at a diverse range of educational institutions like universities and schools, in various degree programmes, and in the media. In brief, everyone is now talking about climate change, and its existence would seem to have finally been accepted at all levels of society – which makes it all the more amazing that this knowledge and acceptance have largely failed to produce climate-friendlier behaviour in either society at large, or in the business sector.

Using this paradox as a point of departure, the research project ‘From Climate Knowledge to Climate Action’, as part of the climate-fit (klimafit) project, is currently exploring the question as to why improved climate change knowledge hasn’t led to climate-friendlier behaviour. Its outcomes will subsequently be used to adapt the climate-fit (klimafit) course, helping to ensure that its content more actively promotes climate-friendly behaviour among the participants. Thanks to Universität Hamburg’s collaborative project ‘From Climate Knowledge to Climate Action’, climate-fit (klimafit) will be explored and evaluated from an additional standpoint. In order to answer the question ‘Why hasn’t improved climate change knowledge led to climate-friendlier behaviour?’ and to identify societal conditions and potentials for climate-preserving action and behaviour, interviews will be used to gather data on the region-specific forms of sociocultural climate knowledge prior to, during and after the community-college course climate-fit (klimafit). In this regard, the first goal is to analyse and assess not only the varying structures of the participants’ climate knowledge, but also how that knowledge changes as they complete more and more evening sessions. In a second step, the data collected on societal climate knowledge will be used to determine how the issue of climate protection can be regionally and locally anchored so as to produce working and action groups (e.g. in the form of ‘climate clubs’) that practically address the issue in a socially embedded manner. To help do so, hands-on experiments involving region-specific forms of climate protection will be conducted together with the course participants and local stakeholders, the goal being to empower future working and action groups to introduce societally embedded and regionally tailored climate protection measures.

Prof Dr Beate Ratter/Dr Martin Döring
Institut für Geographie
Universität Hamburg
Bundesstraße 55
20146 Hamburg