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Science in international negotiations

The Climate Change Convention: a load of hot air?

By Peter Hulm

Science and the three paradigms

How to interpret what took place in the climate change negotiations? Boehmer-Christiansen adopts largely a realist (state-centred) interpretation of events. Haas, quite clearly, is on the other side of the scale: liberal-pluralist in his suggestion that international networks of experts make their own agenda.

However, the realist view does not take account of the way in which government policy was manipulated by scientific/research managers, and epistemic-community theory neglects the predominant role played by governments in the way scientific advice was encouraged or received. Citing the US refusal to act on acid emissions and the British decision to stop dumping sludge in the North Sea, O'Riodan (1995:6) concludes: "Where urgent action is desperately needed, then scientific advice is often subservient to political expediency. [...] Where a problem is not perceived as urgent, [..]scientific advice is welcomed as a justification for delay." (he actually said "no scientific advice is welcomed..." but the accompanying illustration makes it clear that this is a typographical error).

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