3S WP 2012-15 Hulme – What sorts of knowledge for what sort of politics? Science climate change and the challenges of democracy

There are two propositions about knowledge society and policy-making which – if true – are troubling in the context of climate change. First policy-making seems ever more reliant on knowledge and yet science seems to deliver knowledge (at least in this context) with ever less certainty or authority. And second and here I quote Dan Sarewitz (1996): If humanity is unable or unwilling to make wise use of existing technical knowledge … is there any reason to believe that new knowledge will succeed where old knowledge has failed?   In this paper I will analyse recent calls for enhanced knowledge-making around climate change – for example from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Earth System Science Partnership – by asking and answering three specific questions: What sorts of knowledge are needed to understand climate change? How are gaps in knowledge framed? And why does more knowledge matter? I suggest that the frequently heard calls for ‘action’ on climate change emanating from the science community fail to engage adequately with normative dimensions of political decisionKmaking and hence fail to reflect on recent work in science studies political philosophy and democratic theory. In the end the design of environmental knowledge cannot be divorced from the styles of democracy being assumed.

Hulme M. (2012) What sorts of knowledge for what sort of politics? Science climate change and the challenges of democracy 3S Working Paper 2012-15 (Norwich: Science Society and Sustainability Research Group)

3S WP 2012-15 Hulme

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