The Politics of Uncertainty and the Fate of Forecasters

Ethics, Policy and Environment 15 (2):252 - 267 (2012)
Using ethnographic data from rural Northeast Brazil, this article explores, firstly, how climate uncertainties are interconnected to processes of accountability and blame, and, secondly, how this connection affects the activity of climate forecasting. By framing climate events in ways that downplay the inherent uncertainties of the atmosphere, political discourses on various scales, as well as religious narratives, create a propitious context for the enactment of what I call accountability rituals. Forecasters seem to attract to themselves a great deal of the collective anxieties related to climate, and are very often blamed for the negative impact of climate events. This blaming may take place in a variety of ways, and has a range of practical results: from real physical violence to attacks on the authority and legitimacy of forecasters, by way of ridicule and jokes. I conclude by suggesting that, on the one hand, the study of the social uses of climate-related uncertainties offers special opportunities for understanding how human societies deal with uncertainty and blame; and that, on the other hand, a better understanding of these issues is necessary to improve relations between climate forecasting and the societies where it takes place ? the latter being a key issue in the processes of understanding and adapting to climate change
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DOI 10.1080/21550085.2012.685603
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Ian Hacking (1990). The Taming of Chance. Cambridge University Press.

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