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Science in international negotiations

The Climate Change Convention: a load of hot air?

By Peter Hulm

The politics of science

As numerous authors have pointed out, most scientific activity has a socio-political dimension. "The acquisition of knowledge is not a pure and objective affair, but depends on circumstances, relationships and available tools," Kate de Selincourt has stressed in reviewing a work on the sociology of science (de Selincourt, 1995: 47).

At the most basic research level, as O'Riordan (1995:7) indicates, individual scientists rely on peer review - that is, the opinion of others in the scientific community - in validating theories. De Groot (1993) notes the importance of normative evaluation in the evolution of science.

"The scientific establishment is itself an interest group with careers and research budgets to protect, just as the bureaux of the various scientific and functional organizations will compete for the scientific and policy 'turf'," Vogler (1995:205) remarks. He considers that the climate change issue provided "ample evidence of the interplay of special interests within a very extended epistemic community" (ibid).

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