24 Oct 2011

Socio-economic dynamics are key to addressing climate change

Commenting on a study published today in Nature Climate Change, Open University scientist Dr Neil Edwards says that the achievement of the widely accepted 2°C limit for climate change predominantly depends on complex socio-economic dynamics.

The study, led by Joeri Rogelj of ETH Zurich, explores possible scenarios to address climate change, taking into account both the processes linking greenhouse gas emissions to climate warming and the economic aspects of reducing emissions. The analysis confirms that if the mechanisms needed to enable an early peak in global emissions followed by steep reductions are not put in place, there is a significant risk that the 2 °C target will not be achieved.

Dr Edwards questions whether in practice the most limiting factors in achieving the climate targets are the financial, business, social and political innovation needed to drive uptake of existing technology. He believes this is as important as the development of new technologies to address climate change.

"The Rogelj study is a big step forward in connecting natural and societal change,” said Dr Edwards. “But the next step is to include what matters closer to human scale, the link between regional climate impacts and changes in actions and choices"

Neil Edwards leads the multi-million pound project ‘Enhancing Robustness and Model Integration for the Assessment of Global Environmental Change’ (ERMITAGE), which is examining global sustainability and climate change.

Neil Edwards is a member of The Open University’s Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space & Astronomical Research (CEPSAR). The strength and excellence of the research supported by the Centre was acknowledged in the UK’s last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), with 70% of its research deemed internationally excellent and world-leading. CEPSAR website:

•The Open University is the UK’s largest university and the world leader in distance education, and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. It has more than 260,000 students in over 40 countries. Of these, some 1,200 are postgraduate research students.

•The latest edition of the Open University’s Research Highlights brochure can be downloaded from:

•Open Research Online (ORO), the University’s freely accessible repository of research publications, is available at: Since its launch in 2006, it has been visited by over 1.6 million people from more than 200 countries., and is currently ranked the fifth best higher education repository in the UK by the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

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