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Science in international negotiations

The Climate Change Convention: a load of hot air?

By Peter Hulm

The threshold of danger

Leggett makes a more fundamental objection to Bolin's attempt to separate scientific advice from assessment in the IPCC report on global warming: "Nowhere is an attempt made to define the threshold of danger. Nowhere is the timeframe for natural adaptation stipulated. However, even the most cursory consideration of ecology shows that the Convention fails by a mile to meet its objective with adequate commitments. [...] There is no requirement for any government to stabilize its national emissions at any level within any time" (Leggett, 1993:51).

To broaden the perspective from the previous narrow focus for one moment: Bryan Wynne and Sue Mayer (1993) contrast 'reductionist' British approaches to environmental science with German acceptance of multiple interactions and composite variables. Regulators are drawn into restricting only those relationships where cause and effect be either proved or shown to be reasonably unambiguous, they suggest. "These attitudes have not only left Britain with a damaged international reputation as an environmental laggard. They have also left the country way behind in the development of many types of clean technology that could be valuable export earners."

References

Summary

Introduction

The scientific consensus

The problems of consensus

The politics of consensus

The threshold of danger

The politics of science

Knowledge-based communities

'Greenwash'

Buying scientific credibility

Science and the three paradigms

A utilitarian hypothesis

A cobweb model, modified

Conclusion

What the Panel Said


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11 December 2000 Webmaster