Climate Change and Academia: What Role to Play?

What is the role of academics in confronting the climate crisis? Do academics have a special responsibility to get involved in climate justice activism? During this panel discussion, Gerrit Schaafsma discusses the subject with the academics Harriët Bergman, Thomas Wells, Anne Kervers, Christel van Eck and Marthe Wens.

Covid-19 brought unprecedented attention to scientists and the crucial role they play in public deliberation. Appearing on television, radio and in newspapers, scientists communicated with the public about the danger of the pandemic and the measures needed to combat it. What can this tell us about the role academics might play in addressing the climate crisis? Despite the increasing calls by the scientific community for a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, no such reduction has taken place. What does this mean for academics concerned about the climate crisis? How should they respond, both inside and outside academia, to the challenge that is the climate crisis?

About the speakers

Harriët Bergman is a PhD researcher at the University of Antwerp working on political emotions, climate justice and activism. She wrote the foreword to Dutch translation of Andreas Malm’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline and contributes to the publications Hard//Hoofd and Jacobin. She is also a member of the Stroomversnellers group.

Thomas Wells is a philosopher at Leiden University. His research and teaching focus on applied ethics and political philosophy, especially issues relating to global justice and political economy.

Anne Kervers is a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam researching the link between money creation and climate change. She has been participating in civil disobedience actions with Extinction Rebellion since 2019.

Christel van Eck works as an assistant professor at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (UvA). Her research focuses on climate change communication, for example, what are effective communication strategies of academics for public climate engagement and what are not? Next to her research activities, she is passionate about communicating her work beyond academia.

Marthe Wens is an assistant professor in the Water and Climate Risk group at the Institute for Environmental Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In her research, she investigates water security and societal impacts, with a specific focus on modelling the intertwined nature of drought risk and human adaptive behaviour. She works together with research institutes from the Global South on climate resilience, and is a member of Scientist Rebellion. 

Gerrit Schaafsma (moderator) is a PhD researcher working on civil disobedience and the climate crisis at the UvA.

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