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Climate change has become one of the major threats to the environmental health of our planet and the future of human society. Anthropogenic climate change is associated with increases in “natural” disasters; precipitously shifting weather patterns, threats to availability of potable water, food, and shelter; shifts in ranges and prevalence of disease; species extinction; and the destabilization of ecosystems on which all human societies depend. As is true for many environmental threats, the most immediate and severe effects of climate change on humans are likely to fall upon the most socially vulnerable; communities experiencing poverty and political and cultural marginalization, both in the United States and throughout the world.
Sociology needs to robustly address the phenomenon of climate change. It is now well-established that the primary driving forces of global climate change are based in institutional relations and cultural beliefs. Thus social structures are inextricably coupled with natural systems. Since Sociology offers considerable knowledge of social systems it has a great deal to say about the origins of climate change in social practices, and how social relations will impact efforts to either mitigate or adapt to climate change. Sociology can also make important contributions to the understanding and reacting to the adverse social impacts brought about by climate change, such as increased social conflicts over natural resources, social destabilization, increasing population migration, and extensive adverse human health degradation.
Therefore, in August of 2010 the Council of the American Sociological Association approved the formation of a task force on Sociology and Global Climate Change, and charged that group to produce a report applying a sociological analysis to the issue of climate change, and making a series of public policy recommendations based on that analysis.