Strange Weather, Again

Theory, Culture and Society 27 (2-3):289-305 (2010)
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For a long time before the ‘climategate’ emails scandal of late 2009 which cast doubt on the propriety of science underpinning the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, attention to climate change science and policy has focused solely upon the truth or falsity of the proposition that human behaviour is responsible for serious global risks from anthropogenic climate change. This article places such propositional concerns in the perspective of a different understanding of the relationships between scientific knowledge and public policy issues from the conventional ‘translation’ model, in which prior scientific research and understanding is communicated and translated into corresponding policies — or not, if it remains disputed and overly uncertain. Explaining some of the key contingencies and bases for uncertainty in IPCC climate projections and human influences, I show how social and technical analysis of climate science is not about denial of the scientific propositional claims at issue, but about understanding the conditional and essentially ambiguous epistemic character of any such knowledge, however technically sophisticated and robust it may be. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is entirely plausible that existing scientific representations of climate change and its human causes may understate the risks induced by prevailing social-economic processes rather than exaggerate them. As the article shows, the public meanings given to climate science, and to ‘the climate problem’, and thus also the public culture which that knowledge is supposed to inform, are themselves already in key respects presumed and imposed by the science and its framing. This gives rise to perverse effects on public readiness to take informed democratic responsibility for ‘the global climate problem’, and associated cross-cutting issues which existing scientific framings of public policy erase from view.



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Reflexing Complexity.Brian Wynne - 2005 - Theory, Culture and Society 22 (5):67-94.

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