Globally, the world is browning, not greening. In 2010 greenhouse gas emissions rose 5.9%, the largest annual increase since measurement began. In 2013 the earth’s atmosphere crossed the dangerous threshold of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The complexity, destructiveness and speed of changes to the climate have made global warming an urgent social issue. It is a challenge the world cannot ignore.
Climate change has already shaken up the nature of work and the distribution of employment within and between countries, regions and communities. It is changing how we work, what we produce, and where we can produce it. It disrupts the lives of workers and the global supply chains of transnational corporations, undermines governments and creates a new class of precarity—climate migrants. But at the same time as global warming destroys livelihoods and communities, it is forcing the emergence of new ways to organise work. Climate-related occupations and professions are defensively springing up, and trade unions and farmers’ unions in some countries are factoring environmental stewardship into their 21st century responsibilities as custodians of decent work for the next generations.
The world of work is a crucial, although neglected, part of the climate struggle. Work and workplaces of every size—factories, offices and mines, farms, schools, hospitals and home offices—are significant producers of greenhouse gas emissions. In developed countries, work can produce 80% or more of the greenhouse gases created by human activity. Polluters yes, but can workers and unions also be powerful actors in the struggle to slow global warming?
In The Routledge Studies in Climate, Work and Society series, scholars and other thinkers at the forefront of constructing a strategic link between work and climate change contribute to identifying the issues, evaluating policies and silences, tracking change, and stimulating international exchange of ideas and experience. Collectively, the books in this series will emphasise fresh thinking, strategic creativity, international and inter-sectoral comparisons and contribute to the further development of the role of work in societal responses to global warming.
Series Editor: Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé, Professor of Work and Labour Studies, York University, Canada
Professor Elaine Bernard, Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program Harvard Law School, Harvard University, US
Professor Emeritus Richard Hyman, Industrial Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science UK
Dr. Kenneth Odero, Climate XL-Africa, Kenya