Karen O'Brien

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Visiting address Moltke Moes vei 31 Harriet Holters hus 0851 Oslo
Postal address Postboks 1096 Blindern 0317 Oslo

Academic Interests

Karen O'Brien is an internationally recognized expert on climate change and society, focusing on themes such as climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation including how climate change interacts with globalization processes and the implications for human security. She is interested in how transdisciplinary and integral approaches to global change research can contribute to a better understanding of how societies both create and respond to change, and particularly the role of beliefs, values and worldview in transformations to sustainability. She is passionate about what potential there is in quantum social theory and the implications for climate change responses. She currently leads a Norwegian Research Council Topforsk project called AdaptationCONNECTS (Adaptation: Combining Old and New kNowledge to Enable Conscious Transformation to Sustainability), that aims towards developing new understandings of whether and how transformations can contribute to successful adaptation to climate change. She has been heavily involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Global Change Programmes and the transition to Future Earth, a 10-year global change research initiative. She is the co-founder and partner in cCHANGE, an Oslo-based company.  cCHANGE is a beacon for individuals and organizations seeking a new perspective, inspiration, knowledge, and tools on climate change and sustainability transformations.

Background

  • B.A. in International Relations at the College of William and Mary, 1985
  • M.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990
  • Ph.D. in Geography at the Pennsylvania State University, 1995
  • Post-doc at the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), 1996
  • Senior Research Fellow at CICERO, 1997-2005
  • 20% position in the Department of Human Geography, 2001
  • Professor in Human Geography, 2005

Awards

  • 2020 Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa at Linköpings University (to be awarded in May 2021), Sweden
  • 2019 Award for Excellence in Research, Human Dimensions of Global Change Speciality Group, American Association of Geographers (AAG).
  • 2015 University of Oslo Student Parliament's Teaching Award
  • 2011 Burtoni Prize for Adaptation Research
  • 2008 AAG Meridian Book Award (with Robin Leichenko) for ”Environmental Change and Globalization: Double Exposures
  • Shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awared to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Positions Held

  • 2020 - Member of Scoping Group for IPBES Assessment Report on Transformative Change.
  • 2017 – 2019   Science Committee, Transformations 2018, Santiago, Chile. 
  • 2017 – 2019   Scientific Committee, Nordic Conference on Climate Change Adaptation, Norrköping 2018, Sweden.  
  • 2016 – 2017    Science Committee, Transformations 2017: Transformations in Practice Conference, Dundee 2017.
  • 2014 – 2015    Science Committee, Our Common Future in a Changing Climate Conference, Paris 2015.
  • 2013 – 2015    Member of Science Committee, Future Earth.
  • 2012 – 2014    Transdisciplinary Advisory Board member, EU Joint Programming Initiative –Climate Change.
  • 2012 – 2014    Core Writing Team Member for the Synthesis Report (SYR), IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, and Topic 3 Co-Facilitator
  • 2012 – 2014    Author, Summary for Policy Makers, IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group II.
  • 2009 – 2014    Lead Author, IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group II, Chapter 20.
  • 2012 – 2014    Board Member, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo.
  • 2011 -- 2013    Chair of Working Group "Towards a Revolution in Education and Capacity Building" for ESF-COST Forward Look RESCUE Project
  • 2011– 2013     Member, Transition Team, 10-year Initiative on Earth System Science for Global Sustainability. Co-Chair of Working Group on “Research Vision”.
  • 2009 – 2012    Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 8 of the IPCC SREX report
Tags: Human geography, Environment, Climate change, Transformation, Social Change

Publications

Shrivastava, P., Stafford Smith, M., O’Brien, K., and Zsolnai, L. (2020). Transforming sustainability science to generate positive social and environmental change globally. One Earth 2(4): 329-340.

Leichenko, R. and K. O’Brien (2020) Teaching Climate Change in the “Anthropocene”: An Integrative Approach. Anthropocene 30: 100241.

Leichenko, R.M. and K.L. O’Brien 2019. Climate and Society: Transforming the Future. London: Polity Press.

Bentz, J. and K. O’Brien (2019). ART FOR CHANGE: Transformative learning and youth empowerment in a changing climate. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.

O’Brien, K., Selboe, E. and B.M. Hayward. (2018) Exploring youth activism on climate change: dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Ecology and Society 23(3):42. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-10287-230342

O’Brien, K. (2018). Is the 1.5°C Target Possible? Exploring the Three Spheres of Transformation. Current Opinion in Sustainability 31: 153-160. 

O'Brien, K. (2016) Climate change and social transformations: Is it time for a quantum leap? WIREs Climate Change, 7(5): 618-626.

O’Brien, K. (2015) Political agency: The key to tackling climate change. Science, 350(6265): 1170- 1171.

O’Brien, K.L. and E. Selboe (eds) (2015) The Adaptive Challenge of Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Inderberg, T.H., S. Eriksen, K.L. O´Brien and L. Sygna (2015) Climate Change Adaptation and Development: Transforming Paradigms and Practices. London: Routledge.

O’Brien, K.L., L. Sygna and J. Wolf (eds) (2013) A Changing Environment for Human Security: Transformative Approaches to Research, Policy and Action. London: Earthscan.

O’ Brien, K.L., A. St. Clair, and B. Kristoffersen (eds) (2010) Climate Change, Ethics, and Human Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Matthews, R. A., J. Barnett, B. McDonald and K. L. O'Brien (eds) (2010) Global Environmental Change and Human Security, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

O´Brien, K. (2012) Global environmental change II. From adaptation to deliberate transformation. Progress in Human Geography 36(5): 667-676.

Leichenko, R.M. and K.L. O’Brien (2008) Environmental Change and Globalization: Double Exposures. New York: Oxford University Press

O’Brien, K.L. et al. (2007) Why different interpretations of vulnerability matter in climate change discourses. Climate Policy 7: 73-88.

O’Brien, K. et al. (2004) Mapping vulnerability to multiple stressors: Climate change and economic globalization in IndiaGlobal Environmental Change 14(4): 303-313.

O’Brien, K.L., L. Sygna and J.E. Haugen (2004) Vulnerable or resilient? A multi-scale assessment of climate impacts and vulnerability in NorwayClimatic Change 64: 193-225.

Leichenko, R. and K. O’Brien (2002) The dynamics of rural vulnerability to global change: The case of Southern AfricaMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 7: 1-18.

O’Brien, K. and R. Leichenko (2000) Double exposure: Assessing the impacts of climate change within the context of economic globalizationGlobal Environmental Change 10(3): 221-232.

  • Vogel, Coleen & O'Brien, Karen (2021). Getting to the Heart of Transformation. Sustainability Science. ISSN 1862-4065. doi: 10.1007/s11625-021-01016-8.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Reflecting on the Anthropocene: The Call for Deeper Transformations. Ambio. ISSN 0044-7447. 50(10), p. 1793 –1797.
  • Leichenko, Robin; Gram-Hanssen, Irmelin & O'Brien, Karen (2021). Teaching the “how” of transformation. Sustainability Science. ISSN 1862-4065. doi: 10.1007/s11625-021-00964-5.
  • Fazey, Ioan; Schäpke, Niko; Rosenberg, Milda Nordbø; Caniglia, Guido; O'Brien, Karen & Hodgson, Anthony [Show all 40 contributors for this article] (2020). Transforming knowledge systems for life on Earth: Visions of future systems and how to get there. Energy Research & Social Science. ISSN 2214-6296. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2020.101724. Full text in Research Archive
  • Leichenko, Robin M. & O'Brien, Karen (2020). Teaching climate change in the Anthropocene: An integrative approach. Anthropocene. ISSN 2213-3054. 30:100241, p. 1–4. doi: 10.1016/j.ancene.2020.100241. Full text in Research Archive
  • Shrivastava, Paul; Stafford Smith, Mark; O'Brien, Karen & Szolnai, Laszlo (2020). Transforming Sustainability Science to Generate Positive Social and Environmental Change Globally. One Earth. ISSN 2590-3330. 2(4), p. 329–340. doi: 10.1016/j.oneear.2020.04.010. Full text in Research Archive
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Towards an Integrative Discourse on Climate Change. Dialogues in Human Geography. ISSN 2043-8206. 9(1), p. 33–37. doi: 10.1177/2043820619829933.
  • Bentz, Julia & O'Brien, Karen (2019). ART FOR CHANGE: Transformative learning and youth empowerment in a changing climate. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. ISSN 2325-1026. 7.
  • Van der Merwe, S.; Biggs, R.; Preiser, R.; Cunningham, C.; Snowden, D.J. & O'Brien, Karen [Show all 10 contributors for this article] (2019). Making Sense of Complexity: Using SenseMaker as a Research Tool. Systems. ISSN 2079-8954. 7(2).
  • O'Brien, Karen & Leichenko, Robin M. (2019). Towards an Integrative Discourse on Climate Change. Dialogues in Human Geography. ISSN 2043-8206. 9 (1), p. 33–37. doi: 10.1177/2043820619829933. Full text in Research Archive
  • O'Brien, Karen (2018). Is the 1.5?C target possible? Exploring the three spheres of transformation. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. ISSN 1877-3435. 31, p. 153–160. doi: 10.1016/j.cosust.2018.04.010. Full text in Research Archive
  • O'Brien, Karen; Selboe, Elin & Hayward, Bronwyn (2018). Exploring youth activism on climate change: Dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Ecology & Society. ISSN 1708-3087. 23(3). doi: 10.5751/ES-10287-230342.
  • Fazey, Ioan; Schäpke, Niko; Caniglia, Guido; Patterson, James; Hultman, Johan & van Mierlo, Barbara [Show all 48 contributors for this article] (2018). Ten essentials for action-oriented and second order energy transitions, transformations and climate change research. Energy Research & Social Science. ISSN 2214-6296. 40, p. 54–70. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2017.11.026. Full text in Research Archive
  • Fazey, Ioan; Moug, Peter; Allen, Simon; Beckmann, Kate; Blackwood, David & Bonaventura, Mike [Show all 24 contributors for this article] (2017). Transformation in a changing climate: a research agenda. Climate and Development. ISSN 1756-5529. 10(3), p. 197–217. doi: 10.1080/17565529.2017.1301864. Full text in Research Archive

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  • O'Brien, Karen; El Khoury, Ann; Schafenacker, Nicole & Rosenfeld, Jordan (2019). Our Entangled Future: Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change. AdaptationCONNECTS. ISBN 978-82-691819-2-0. 161 p.
  • Leichenko, Robin M. & O'Brien, Karen (2019). Climate and Society: Transforming the Future. Polity Press. ISBN 9780745684383. 250 p.

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  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Dekolonisering av paradigmer. In Ossavy, Nina & Kolbenstvedt, Marius (Ed.), Naturtro. Om å dekolonisere naturen.. Iris forlag. ISSN 9788293359265. p. 67–68.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). You Matter More Than You Think: Quantum Social Change for a World in Crisis.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Accelerating Action on Climate Change: Engaging with the practical, political, and personal spheres of transformation.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Transforming to reach the 1.5℃ target.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Transformative Change: Integrating the practical, political, and personal spheres of transformation.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Integrative Approaches to Transformations.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Education for Transformation.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Democracy and Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). You Matter More Than You Think: Climate change, Social change, and The Humanities in the 21st Century.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Social and Cultural Values and Fractal Perspectives.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Transformation in Action.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Relationship matter.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). The Three Spheres of Transformation.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Political Agency for Transformations: What does it take?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Governing Transformations: It’s All About Relationships.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). From Problems to Solutions: Engaging People in Transformations to Sustainability.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Looking into the Crystal Ball: What Does the Future Hold for the Cultural Environments.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2021). Dekolonisering av paradigmer. In Ossavy, Nina & Kolbenstvedt, Marius (Ed.), Naturtro. Om å dekolonisere naturen.. Iris forlag. ISSN 9788293359265. p. 64–68.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Just Transformations: How can ideas of transformation be integrated into possible pathways and corridors to a safe and just future?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). A springboard in the transition to a low emission society.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Paneldebatt: Hvordan lager vi en klimapolitikk som oppleves som rettferdig?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Fractals Matter.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Agency Matters.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Quantum Social Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Transforming the Future.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). The Adaptive Challenge of Sustainable Development: Looking beyond a purely technical approach.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Education for Transformation: The significance of paradigms, politics, and practices.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Transformational Leadership for Sustainability .
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Taking the Climate Crisis Seriously: Three Spheres of Transformation.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Education for Transformation: Whose Values and Visions are Shaping the Future? .
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). En helhetlig tilnærming til mobilitetsomstilling: Det handler om transformasjon.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). The Decade that Matters: Taking Transformations to Climate Change and Transformations to Sustainability Seriously.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Education for transformation: Aligning values and visions for a sustainable future.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Forskere mener vi ikke lenger kan stole på at teknologien skal redde klimaet. [Internet]. Forskning.no.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). Transformative Change at a Global Scale: From Understanding to Action.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2020). It’s a Relationship Problem: Addressing Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change, Inequality, and Global Pandemics.
  • O'Brien, Karen; El Khoury, Ann; Schafenacker, Nicole & Rosenfeld, Jordan (2019). Stories of Quantum Social Change. In O'Brien, Karen; El Khoury, Ann; Schafenacker, Nicole & Rosenfeld, Jordan (Ed.), Our Entangled Future: Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change. AdaptationCONNECTS. ISSN 978-82-691819-2-0. p. 1–13.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). The Most Powerful Solution to Climate Change. [Internet]. The Regen Narration.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Climate Change and Society: Transforming the Future.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Climate Change and Societal Transformation.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Climate Change as a Relationship Problem.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). For lite miljø på exphil-pensum. [Newspaper]. Uniforum.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Kostnaden ved å gjøre ingenting: «200 millioner mennesker vil trenge nødhjelp årlig». [Business/trade/industry journal]. Bistandsaktuelt.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). The Personal Sphere of Transformation.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). How do we transform systems? .
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). People as the most powerful solution for sustainability.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Our Entangled Future: Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Transformational Leadership for Sustainability.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Transformational Change: What does it mean for Chile’s long-term decarbonization and adaptation strategies?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Quantum Social Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Education for transformation: Whose values and visions are shaping the future?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). The Challenge of Conscious Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Creative Transformations: Realizing our Potential for Quantum Social Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Confronting the Challenge of Change: Bærekraftig Utvikling, Medborgerskap og Livsmestring.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). The Challenge of (climate) Change: Engasjement Nedenfra eller Toppstyrt?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Quantum Social Change: You matter more than you think.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Contributing to social change: A researcher’s perspective.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Systems change: You matter more than you think.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Taking climate change and transformations to sustainability seriously. In Meadowcroft, James; Banister, David; Holden, Erling; Langhelle, Oluf; Linnerud, Kristin & Gilpin, Geoffrey (Ed.), What Next for Sustainable Development? Our Common Future at Thirty. Edward Elgar Publishing. ISSN 9781788975193. p. 200–218.
  • O'Brien, Karen & Leichenko, Robin M. (2019). Teaching Transformation: Fostering Integrative Understanding of Climate and Society .
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Quantum Social Change: You matter more than you think.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Transforming the Future: The World of beauty in a changing climate.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Investing in climate action: The power of perspectives.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Ungdoms rolle i en bærekraftig fremtid: Hvordan skaper vi endring?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Climate Change: It’s a Relationship Problem.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). What is our potential for change?
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). The Challenge of (climate) Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen & Leichenko, Robin M. (2019). Climate and Society: Transforming the Future.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Science and Entrepreneurship.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Climate Change: It’s a Relationship Problem.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2019). Transformative Change.
  • O'Brien, Karen; Hochachka, Gail & Gram-Hanssen, Irmelin (2019). Creating a Culture for Transformation. In Feola, Guiseppe; Geoghegen, Hilary & Arnall, Alex (Ed.), Climate and Culture : Multidisciplinary Perspectives on a Warming World. Cambridge University Press. ISSN 9781108422505. p. 266–290. doi: https%3A/doi.org/10.1017/9781108505284.
  • O'Brien, Karen & Schorre, Ann Kristin (2019). Ildsjel. In Schneider-Mayerson, Matthew & Bellamy, Brent Ryan (Ed.), An Ecotopian Lexicon. University of Minnesota Press. ISSN 978-1-5179-0590-3.
  • Bradbury, Hilary; Waddell, Steve; O'Brien, Karen; Apgar, Marina; Teehankee, Ben & Fazey, Ioan (2019). A call to Action Research for Transformations: The times demand it. Action research. ISSN 1476-7503. 17(1), p. 3–10. doi: 10.1177/1476750319829633.
  • Scoville-Simonds, Morgan & O'Brien, Karen (2018). Vulnerability. In Castree, Noel; Hulme, Mike & Proctor, James D. (Ed.), Companion to Environmental Studies. Routledge. ISSN 9781138192201. p. 127–135.
  • Klinsky, Sonja; Roberts, Timmons; Huq, Saleemul; Okereke, Chukwumerije; Newell, Peter & Dauvergne, Peter [Show all 18 contributors for this article] (2017). Why equity is fundamental in climate change policy research. Global Environmental Change. ISSN 0959-3780. 44, p. 170–173. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.08.002.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2017). Participant at panel discussion: Møt FNs klimapanel – 10 år etter fredsprisen.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2017). Taking a stand for (social) science.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2017). Taking Systems Change Seriously-A Call to Action.
  • O'Brien, Karen & Høeg, Elida (2017). Tekniske løsninger er ikke nok. [Newspaper]. Morgenbladet.
  • O'Brien, Karen & Pawar, Yogesh (2017). Mentoring the Mentors. [Internet]. DNA News and Analysis.
  • O'Brien, Karen & Sunnanå, Arnhild (2017). Pen plen – en ørken på våre friområder? [Newspaper]. Stavanger Aftenblad.
  • O'Brien, Karen (2017). Jeg vil høre havet.
  • Daszak, Peter; Amuasi, John; Das Neves, Carlos G; Hayman, David; Kuiken, Thijs & Roche, Benjamin [Show all 24 contributors for this article] (2020). IPBES (2020) Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

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Published Oct. 11, 2010 2:03 PM - Last modified Aug. 20, 2020 10:42 PM