A hub for critical social science on climate change

The Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)², is a hub for critical social science research on the climate emergency, based in the University of Pennsylvania’s Population Studies Center. (SC)² aims to deepen understanding of the intersection of social, health, and environmental inequalities in the built environment all over the world, with an eye to public engagement and informing policy.

“Carboniferous” map in “Nonstop Metropolis: A New York Atlas” (Solnit and Schapiro 2016). Cartography: Molly Roy; artwork: Bette Burgoyne. Underlying data from Kevin Ummel, adapted from research he did for the Center for Global Development. Image courtesy of University of California Press.

(SC)²’s first major research project is Whole Community Climate Mapping, a collective, interdisciplinary big data project to create, analyze, and share with the public a household carbon footprint database and climate vulnerability index for the United States of unprecedented spatial resolution, along with a wide range of other social, health, and environmental indicators—all at the neighborhood level.

(SC)² is also advancing the debate on the Green New Deal idea, with a focus on the inequality and the built environment through workshops and public events, like Designing a Green Deal.

Collaboration must be at the core of critical social scientific work on a topic as massive as climate change. (SC)² brings together graduate students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania across schools and departments, and coordinates with faculty and research groups at other universities in the U.S. and abroad.

For a brief discussion of the challenges that studying climate breakdown poses to critical social science, see (SC)2 Director Daniel Aldana Cohen’s co-authored essay at the Social Science Research Council’s Items blog, “The Useful Discomfort of Critical Climate Social Science.” Cohen wrote the essay with three of (SC)²’s faculty collaborators, Kasia Paprocki (LSE), Rebecca Elliott (LSE), and Liz Koslov (UCLA).

Brief History

(SC)2 is directed by Daniel Aldana Cohen, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Cohen and the data scientist Kevin Ummel began the collaboration that would eventually yield (SC)2 in April 2015. Ummel’s data underlaid the map pictured above, which appeared in “Nonstop Metropolis: A New York Atlas,” edited by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro and Rebecca Solnit. The map shows that the city’s lowest-carbon neighborhoods are anchored by public housing. This is why some of New York’s iconic public housing stock is included in this website’s stylized banner image, a representation of the city’s skyline that too often excludes those buildings.

Ummel and Cohen renewed their collaboration in fall 2016, with support from Penn’s Population Studies Center, leading to the founding of (SC)2. (SC)2 has since organized reading groups, workshops, and events, and launched a major research project, Whole Community Climate Mapping.



Nick Graetz, Kevin Ummel, and Daniel Aldana Cohen published a working paper, “Small-Area Analyses Using Public American Community Survey Data: A Tree-Based Spatial Microsimulation Technique,” in the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). May 2020.



(SC)2 Director Daniel Aldana Cohen led the research for the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, which was introduced by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Sanders in November 2019. Read the research, co-produced with the McHarg Center and Data for Progress; and see coverage of the report interviewing Cohen in Vox and the The Huffington Post, and coverage in the Bronx Chronicle of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Cohen presenting the Act in the Pelham Parkway Houses in the Bronx in December 2019.



Working with Data for Progress and People’s Action, (SC)2 surveyed Americans on their support level for ambitious policies to build new social housing, decarbonize housing, redress racial inequalities in housing, and turn public institutions like libraries and public schools into resiliency centers. We found strikingly broad and deep support for these measures. Read our October 19, 2020, memo for details.



In the real world, you can’t separate the carbon causing the climate emergency from our physical and economic systems, any more than you can separate windows, furnaces, and air conditioners from your monthly rent bill. Read (SC)2 Director Daniel Aldana Cohen’s October 1st, 2019, op-ed in the Guardian




A Green New Deal would have massive implications for the built environment, yet these have received scant attention in public debate so far. Join (SC)², the McHarg Center for Urbanism + Ecology, and our other partners for a major public event on September 13, 2019, Designing a Green Deal. REGISTER HERE



The July 2019 heat emergency has exemplified how the climate crisis is converging with a housing crisis. We could tackle both with a Green New Deal for Housing. Read (SC)2 Director Daniel Aldana Cohen’s analysis of the July 2019 U.S. heat emergency in The Nation.



Typically, we measure emissions that occur within a geographic boundary. But consumption-based accounting tells a different story: that affluent communities depend heavily on polluting activity that occurs elsewhere. Read our June 2019 Policy Digest, Follow the Carbon: The Case for Neighborhood-Level Carbon Footprints



Read a summary of (SC)2 Director Daniel Aldana Cohen’s 2019 journal article, Contradictions of the Climate‐Friendly City: New Perspectives on Eco‐Gentrification and Housing Justice, co-authored with Jennifer L. Rice, Joshua Long, and Jason R. Jurjevitch, and drawing on research by (SC)2‘s Kevin Ummel. Or see coverage in Sierra Magazine, Science Daily, and Fast Company.