Towards a new social contract for archaeology and climate change adaptation
Anthropogenic climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing society in the twenty-first century. Climate impacts present wicked and messy challenges that require a cross-disciplinary understanding of social and biophysical change (Tengö et al. 2010). There is a growing body of evidence that climate change will have impacts on food production (Barrett 2010), global health (Watts et al. 2015, 2017), the frequency of hazardous events (IPCC 2014), resource conflict (Barnett and Adger 2007) and the displacement of people (Adger et al. 2013a; Bettini 2013, 2017). Curiously, archaeology, a subject with a long history of studying human-environment interactions, plays a very limited role in contemporary debates about appropriate responses to climate challenges (Costanzo et al. 2007; Dearing et al. 2006; Van de Noort 2013). This paper develops recent calls for archaeology to more actively participate in contemporary climate-adaptation research, public education and community empowerment (Riede 2014a; Riede et al. 2016a; Van de Noort 2013). Firstly, we outline the ways in which long-term perspectives of human interactions with changing climates (and thus archaeology) can contribute to global change research (GCR). Secondly, we outline the idea of a ‘social contract’ in archaeology as a way to enhance GCR. This ‘social contract’ would: (i) encourage interdisciplinary publications that synthesize archaeological research focusing on evidence of the long-term impacts of climate change on human societies; (ii) encourage museums to engage the public with thematic exhibitions that outline impacts of climate change on cultures in the past in ways that make explicit connections to contemporary debates; and, (iii) encourage transdisciplinary projects that better engage the physical sciences with the social sciences and the humanities, as well as with the academy and civil society.