International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment
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International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment

Edited by Tony Fitzpatrick

Environmental change is central to the global social policy challenges of the twenty-first century. This comprehensive Handbook brings together leading experts from around the world to address the most important questions and issues we face. How should welfare states adapt to environmental change? To what extent are the ecological and social policy agendas compatible? Must we contemplate radical reforms to the principles and organisation of welfare services? Combining cutting-edge theory and data in an interdisciplinary approach, this Handbook both summarises existing developments and suggests how debates and research must develop in the future.
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Chapter 1: The new social risks and opportunities of climate change

André Schaffrin


At the outset of the twenty-first century, modern welfare states face major challenges. Demographic change puts public pension and healthcare systems under pressure as the number of older persons rises compared to the working-age population. Global financial crises and budgetary deficits highly limit social policy and require structural reforms and retrenchment of benefits. Governments seek to deregulate the labor market in order to reduce labor costs and to increase competitiveness of local businesses on increasingly globalized markets. In this numeration, international scholars agree, global climate change is one of the most challenging threats for humankind (IPCC 2001, 2007; Stern 2007). However, its impact on social policy and public welfare is complex. This chapter reviews and evaluates recent social science scholarship on the relationship between climate change and social policy. It provides an overview of both potential conflicts of climate change mitigation (hereafter: climate mitigation) efforts and social policy but also the opportunities to align welfare and climate mitigation goals within public policy making. In addition to a discussion of the general risks and potentials for public welfare induced by climate mitigation efforts, the review focuses on the two strongest themes in current research: (1) the creation of 'green jobs'; and (2) energy inequality in the housing sector. The vast majority of climate researchers agree that the dangers of global warming are real and the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases will continue to rise if major efforts for the mitigation of climate change fail or are delayed.

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