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Problem-centred social science

Nature has been publishing research in the physical and life sciences for almost 150 years. Its forays into publishing social science research are somewhat newer, but as academics increasingly tune their research towards solving society’s grand challenges, Springer Nature’s stable of research journals are doing all they can to keep pace.

A new joint collection of articles from Nature Energy and Nature Climate Change on ‘Energy, Climate and Society’ illustrates this commitment.

Humans emit about 30 billion tonnes of CO2 due to energy consumption each year, electricity distribution lines criss-cross more than 75 million kilometres of the earth, and companies trade nearly 1,400 million tonnes of coal annually. Transitioning to a low carbon economy, as countries must do if they are to keep their recently reiterated climate pledges, is clearly a grand social challenge.

The new collection brings together cutting-edge scholarly perspectives on where people fit into the energy-climate nexus, and how social science research can feed into strategies to engage the public on what President Barack Obama has described as the “defining threat of this century”.

The broad scope of thematic journals such as Nature Climate Change and Nature Energy allows social science research to be presented alongside and, where possible, integrated with physical and natural science. In this way, we hope to provide a home for researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds but a common interest to communicate with one another in the name of exploring solutions.

When it comes to creating a sustainable energy future, it’s clear that something is going to have to change. Around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of heat and electricity, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The International Energy Agency expects demand for energy to grow by about a third by 2040, with emissions rising by about 16%, even if countries adopt new low-carbon policies. This clearly necessitates a large-scale social transformation, and at the heart of this transformation will be people: as agents of change rather than abettors of stasis.

Catalysing this change requires a better understanding of how society interacts with the energy systems at the core of its activity. In this context, it’s clear that social science matters – and Springer Nature along with Palgrave is committed to helping enable researchers meet these challenges head-on.