Social dimensions of climate protection and climate change

Background and Goals

It is likely that it will not be possible to derive strategies for combating climate change from the results of scientific research alone. How people perceive it, the consequences it has for them and whether and to what extent they are prepared to actually implement response strategies depends greatly on the relevant social and cultural environment. For example, unusually long drought periods in regions of Africa or Latin America are not viewed as climate change phenomena by those affected, but as social disasters in the form of starvation or violent disputes over resources.

The interdisciplinary funding initiative "Social dimensions of climate protection and climate change" will involve 12 projects, aiming to contribute to:

  • Increasing understanding of social causes and effects of climate change, while supporting the design of climate protection and adaptation measures by avoiding exclusion of population groups and promoting acceptance;
  • Strengthening climate research expertise in social sciences and humanities;
  • Relating scientific findings on climate change, as well as technical, planning and economic instruments for implementation of climate protection measures and adaptation strategies, to social factors so that potential conflicts can be identified in good time and the (in some cases unexpected) scope for action can be recognised.


The 12 projects are:

1) Urban solidarity - Cooperative options for action in times of climate change;

2) The social dimension of the rebound effect (REBOUND);

3) SPREAD - Scenarios of Perception and Reaction to Adaptation;

4) Alpine natural hazards in climate change (ANIK) - Interpretation patters and practices from 18th to 21st century;

5) EMIGMA - Empowerment of migrants for climate protection;

6) Regional climate: Social transformation processes for climate protection and adaptation;

7) Climate change, environmental changes and migration: Social and ecological conditions for population movements (MICLE) based on examples from Sahel countries of Mali and Senegal;

8) Climate protection, development and equity: Decarbonisation in developing and emerging nations (EntDekEn);

9) Climate change and everyday action: Potential, strategies and instruments for low-CO2 lifestyles in a zero emission city (KlimaAlltag);

10) Climates of migration. A historical perspective of climate change and environmental migration;

11) Connecting emissions trading systems - The way to a socially and ecologically acceptable structure for the trade in emissions certificates in Europe, the USA and Japan;

12) Climate protection policy in aging societies: Complex climate systems, cognition and willingness to pay (CLIMAGE).

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
  • global

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

The global climate projections from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) will be used.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
Further Parameters 

extreme weather events

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

Examples to be studied include the effects of long periods of drought and the increase in extreme weather events.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

considered in some projects

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

A key cause of conflict is the fact that people are or will be affected in very different ways by climate change and climate protection measures because of their geographical and socio-economic situations. The discussions on the contribution of biofuels to safeguarding energy supplies versus food security, or about the pros and cons of state subsidies for energy costs for socially weak groups will provide an indication of the anticipated conflicts between different interest groups or countries.

The practical objective is to build a bridge between scientific knowledge and social action. Recommended actions for politicians and other relevant players will help to develop locally adapted solutions, e.g. to prevent involuntary migration or to promote migration as an adaptation strategy.

Time horizon
  • 2036–2065

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Costs of the measures 

A realistic energy and climate policy must develop effective and socially acceptable packages of measures based on a profound understanding of the causes and consequences of the rebound effect. The objectives of the "REBOUND" project include identifying appropriate measures, including an analysis of costs.


Funding / Financing 

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the "FONA - Research for sustainable development" programme

Project management 

Promoter: German Aerospace Center (DLR)


- Technical University of Berlin,

- nexus Institute for Cooperation Management and Interdisciplinary Research,

- Center for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim,

- University of Stuttgart,

- Fraunhofer Society for Applied Research (Fraunhofer),

- Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research,

- University of Kassel,

- University Duisburg-Essen,

- Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiell,

- Technical University of Munich,

- Georg-August-Universität Göttingen,

- Free University of Berlin,

- Fachhochschule Dortmund,

- University of Augsburg,

- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München,

- University of Applied Sciences

- University of Munich,

- Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) GmbH,

- University of Bayreuth,

- Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK),

- GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies / Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien,

- Institute for Ecological Economy Research (Iow) Ltd.,

-Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg.


DLR – Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.
AE 41 Globaler Wandel/Klima- und Umweltschutz, Sozial-ökologische Forschung
Heinrich-Konen-Str. 1
D-53227 Bonn

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  buildings  civil protection and disaster management  coastal and marine protection  energy infrastructure  financial services industry  fishery  human health and care  industry and commerce  soil  spatial planning, urban and settlement development  tourism industry  transport and transport infrastructure  water regime and water management  woodland and forestry  cross sectoral