Nothing will shape cities’ future more than carbon emissions—both the efforts to eliminate them, and the consequences of their emission. Yet urban and environmental sociologists have had little to say about urban climate politics’ successes and failures, especially concerning decarbonization. To explain climate politics’ dynamics—in cities, and elsewhere—sociology must follow the carbon into the viscera of social life, widening our analytic lens to capture more actors and mechanisms. In this talk, I explain how housing movements, ignored by most urban climate research, have shaped the outcomes of low-carbon policy struggles in São Paulo and New York in the 21st century. And I show how quantitative carbon tracing helps us understand the links between eco-apartheid, regional political mobilization, and the the contested decarbonization of energy systems, within and beyond cities.
Daniel Aldana Cohen is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)2. He’s the co-author of A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green Deal (Verso Books 2019) and is completing a book called Street Fight: Climate Change and Inequality in the 21st Century City, under contract with Princeton University Press. His research and writing have appeared in Nature; The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research; Environmental Politics; City: Analysis of Urban Change, Theory, Action; NACLA: Report on the Americas; The Guardian; The Nation; Dissent; Jacobin; and elsewhere.