Anyone tracking climate change issues – especially from a research perspective – will have noted the intense volume of activity that falls within its scope. As anthropologists working among policy scientists, climatologists of different stripes, economists, ecologists and sociologists, we are challenged to specify what forms of knowledge fall within the scope of an anthropological approach. This seems to me a basis for collaborating both with other anthropologists (so that there will be no confusion, even if there will still be disagreement) as well as non-anthropologists (who deserve not to be confused by the vague answers anthropologists usually give when asked what they do). It’s also necessary because, in order to collaborate, we need to know when to rely on the work of others and when to go out and do the work we’re best at. To wed Luhmann to Strathern: functional simplification breeds literalisation (ironic kinship metaphors intended).

To this end, the first challenge is to specify the anthropological significance of climate change, which is to demand a degree of precision about what anthropology is that it would engage with the problem on its own terms. In sum, what is anthropology that it cares about climate change?

The objective, then, is to create a sketch of possible anthropological approaches to the dominant concerns surrounding climate change. What are the different ways in? And how do they cohere with each other?