Durham Professor argues that science alone will not save us
(19 May 2009)
Sarah Curtis, Professor in Health and Risk in the Geography Department at Durham University has been quoted in the Guardian on Tuesday 19th May for her argument that funding for the social sciences is just as important as that for science and engineering when it comes to dealing with the consequences of climate change.
Sarah Curtis heads a group of Durham University academics working with engineers from Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University on a project to discover how storms, floods and heatwaves caused by climate change might affect the elderly and how infrastructure can be tailored to cope. 'Multidisciplinary work helps engineers and scientists, as well as the professional carers, tackle extreme weather events in the future and keep services running, Curtis says. 'They also need to understand from the people receiving those services what's important to them and that's where the social science perspective comes in - really being able to interpret events and problems from different social perspectives. The social science perspective isn't just about individual behaviour, but helps us to think about the way that people work and interact together. I would argue that what's important to people and how they tackle problems is not just down to individual characteristics but also to the social circumstances they're in.' She is concerned about an over-reliance on Stem (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects to provide solutions to climate change. 'This isn't just about sharing academic knowledge, but also the public debate as well, because in all honesty I don't think that natural scientists have all the answers to the problems we're facing over climate change and neither do I think that social scientists have the solutions. So we are going to have to negotiate across these different points of view if we are going to move forward.'