Karen O'Brien

Transformations to Sustainability 

Is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, Norway. She is also co-founder of cCHANGE, a company that supports transformation in a changing climate. Karen has 30 years of research experience, with an emphasis on the social and human dimensions of climate change and implications for human security. Karen’s current research focuses on the relationship between climate change adaptation and transformations to sustainability, with an emphasis on the role of creativity, collaboration, empowerment, and narratives.


She is particularly interested in the role of beliefs, values, world views, and paradigms in generating conscious social change, and this includes an exploration of the potential for “quantum social change.” Karen has participated in four reports for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, and as part of the IPCC was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2019 she was named by Web of Science as one of the world’s most influential researchers of the past decade.  

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When it comes to transformations to an equitable and thriving world, we matter more than we think.

Karen O'Brien

Recent Keynotes

  • Lovisenberg diakonale høgskole, Oslo, Norway 2020

  • “Climate Change: It’s a Relationship Problem.” Keynote presentation at Celebrate Life Festival, Oldenburg, 2019

  • “Investing in climate action: The power of perspectives”. Presentation at Driva – Climate InvestmentsConference, Nysnø, Stavanger, 2019

  • Leverage Points International conference on sustainability research and transformation, Lüneburg, Germany, 2019 

  • Agility and the Possible in a Warming World, Brown University, USA, 2019