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Climate Tech: Why It Needs the Humanities and Social Sciences

Climate Series, Climate Futures/Climate Justice

dateMarch 28, 2023 timeTuesday, 4:15pm–6:00pm EDT locationVirtual Event location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Video available upon request.

  • Columbia Climate School
  • Center for Science and Society
  • Decarbonization, Climate Resilience and Climate Justice Network
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Two images combined: horizon with climate plant juxtaposed with bookstore with hanging lightbulbs

Climate tech — technologies to respond to climate change — gathered over $50 billion of startup funding in recent years and billions more in public support. Carbon tech is a subset of climate tech, denoting both technologies to suck carbon out of the atmosphere and use and store it as well as platforms to exchange abstractions of all this carbon. Successfully scaling some forms of climate tech and carbon tech will be critical for confronting climate change.

However, these technologies will fail to be deployed without incorporating theories and practices from both the humanities and social sciences. This is due to a lack of demand and public support, the scarcity of visions of alternative business or ownership models, a failure to understand factors that would enable individuals and institutions to adopt the tech, contestation around the infrastructure to support these technologies, poor governance, and more.

This talk makes a case for why humanities and social science practitioners should bother to engage with the development of these emerging technologies. Speakers will discuss what forms and methods generative engagement could take, how to avoid the pitfalls of instrumentalization by capital, and what's at stake if these fields continue to be on the sidelines of climate tech investment and debate.


Holly Jean Buck is a geographer and environmental social scientist studying rural futures, the politics of platforms, and how emerging technologies can address environmental challenges. She works as an Assistant Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, and has a Ph.D. in Development Sociology from Cornell University. She is the author of After Geoengineering: Climate Tragedy, Repair, and Restoration and Ending Fossil Fuels: Why Net Zero Is Not Enough.

Leah Aronowsky will moderate.

Climate Futures/Climate Justice is an interdisciplinary event series exploring the relationship between climate justice, carbon tech, and climate futures. Climate scientists, engineers, anthropologists, geographers, science studies scholars, political ecologists, legal scholars, and historians connect to discuss justice-centered climate futures and engage defining issues of the carbon tech/climate justice nexus.

This event will be in person at the Heyman Center and live-streamed online. Please register for both in-person and virtual attendance via the link.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.