(first version published in 2000)

Science in international negotiations

The Climate Change Convention: a load of hot air?

By Peter Hulm

The fashionable political science view of professional activities in international affairs is 'epistemic.' In the academic jargon, professionals form their own communities and, exercising an international view of the issues, are more loyal to each other than to their nation-state.

It may be commonplace and unquestioned in much of academia, but it is just a theory. In fact, it's probably not true. My research into the negotiations and promulgation of the UN-brokered Climate Change Convention suggests that common sense ideas of political processes, power struggles and national questions took front seat.

My conclusions go further: scientists and politicians, it is suggested, are involved in an overt and covert struggle within the nation state and between nations for power, prestige and money, even when the issue is science.

Worse still, believing and proclaiming otherwise - as many politicians,  UN officials and media commentators have done - carries some significant costs. I try to spell these out. They include handing over decisions to politically and nationally inspired scientists who can then set the agenda for spending and research.

Not so important? I don't think so. Contrast what France and Germany wanted to do - take precautionary action - to what finally emerged. And Britain's hard-nosed attitude against action not only jeopardized its reputation. It also left the country well behind in the technological race to control greenhouse-gas emissions. Eight years on from the first negotiations, things don't seem to have changed much.


Science is neutral, objective and fact-based, right? At an international level, this is one way to escape nationalist competition, emotionalism and special interest pleading. For politicians anxious to broker a deal, whether internationally minded or not, scientific opinion can provide the impetus for accepting an agreement whose impact on the national interest is uncertain. Such, I think, is the generally accepted political and bureaucratic view in international organizations of the role of science in global issues.

So at the global level in particular, politicians often turn to specialists, and notably to scientists, for their opinions on the technical aspects of issues subject to public policy decisions. Almost every international agreement depends on a series of expert reports that are thought to give the framework for the negotiations.

In such issues, scientific consensus is considered a major requirement. Politics and science are often contrasted, with science praised for its neutrality in policy issues. However, especially on environmental questions, the search for consensus has significant shortcomings, as the history of the 1992 Climate Change Convention indicates:

Pressures for a common view force advice-givers to gloss over important scientific uncertainties.

These uncertainties can be exploited by stakeholder governments to the detriment of effective action.

Artificial polarization, particularly as portrayed by the media, can then work against the interests of democratic decision-making, though it makes interesting (and therefore profitable) reading.

Scientists in one nation or group of nations can themselves take over the consensus process for their own purposes.

What conclusions can we draw, then, about science in politics or politics in science as revealed by international negotiations for a climate change convention? Neither a 'realist' (nation-state based) nor a liberal-pluralist view of such activity - the two most common approaches used by political scientists - provides an adequate understanding of the forces involved. The most common alternative political explanation - based on a neo-Marxist approach - fails to account for a large part of what took place. A combination of these perspectives, which might be termed 'post-realism' in approach, suggests that 'civic science' (Lee, 1993) is as political as any other public activity, subject to the same pressures and exploited in the same way.


The Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into force on 21 March 1994 in less than two years after it was signed by leaders of over 150 nations at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro (Common Inheritance, 1994:34). According to its closest political analyst, it "codifies the largest global research and data collection effort ever undertaken" (Boehmer-Christiansen, 1995:1).

As the technical basis for decisions taken under the Convention, scientists played a key role in providing advice to the political phase of the negotiations. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in November 1988 as part of the negotiations, assembled a number of views on the scientific issues and indicated the degree of consensus it found on each aspect.

What the scientific issues are, how justified the scientific views are, are not my concern here. This review looks at the process involved and the political factors in the consensus-building exercise rather than the content of the scientific opinion and the panel's advice. It will not, therefore, refer to the details of this assessment except in so far as public policy is concerned, and I take no view of the scientific issues. A summary of the panel's report is, however, given in What the Panel Said.

What I do want to do, in part, is tomake a critical exploration of the influential ideas of Sonya Boehmer-Christiansen with regard to the IPCC (in Boehmer-Christiansen, 1995) and of Peter Haas's theories of epistemic consensus (in Haas, 1992).

I looked first at the process by which scientific consensus was achieved. This raised questions of whether the report represented accurately the opinions of the scientific community (and, contrary to most of the convention's proponents, I think it did not). In fact, it's a moot point whether consensus is a valid approach in environmental matters.

Through the example of the Convention, I have tried to highlight some of the political issues involved before going on to the wider implications. My research concluded with an examination of the process from the three paradigms or traditions usually employed in global politics studies - realism, liberal-pluralism and Marxism - and suggests that the academic interpretations in fact reflect an alternative approach (which I have dubbed 'post-realist' because it embraces theories that the world of nation-states has suffered a loss of authority and autonomy), and that image-conscious activity may determine international action quite as consciously as political interests - indeed national interests may be expressed through 'neutrally'-phrased publicity.

The scientific consensus

First, the process. In producing its report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) analysed thousands of scientific papers and the lead authors for each section were chosen to "reflect a balance among difficult points of view" (Bolin, 1994:97), with "at least one specialist from a developing country" (ibid). The IPCC's chairing scientist, Bert Bolin of Sweden, described the panel's task as "to assess knowledge rather than to recommend measures to be taken", a significant form of phrasing from a political as from a scientific point of view, as I later indicate. It is worth noting, however, how close this phrasing is to what most people would seem to consider the proper role of science in political issues.

The first panel report was the work of some 200 climatologists, reviewed by another 200 (Gribbin, 1990). The (Working Group II) review of available scientific and technical literature on possible impacts, scheduled for completion in September 1995, involved more than 200 contributors (ibid). Drafts of this 1995 Second Assessment Report were circulated to nearly 800 'experts' for review (Moss, 1995:4).

John Gribbin has pointed out that the world total of climatologists is only some 400, so presumably nearly all were involved. More significantly, the consensus achieved in the Panel Report on a subject with numerous scientific uncertainties has been widely praised.

The scientific consensus indicated in the report has often been contrasted with the disagreement over the measures that should to be taken and the commitments made (Bergesen and Sydnes, 1992:36; Wynne and Mayer, 1993:33; Paterson, 1994:175; Clayton, 1995:111). Helge Olde Bergesen and Anne Kristin Sydnes declare: "It is noteworthy that the climate scientists succeeded in producing an assessment (of a highly political issue) that appears both independent and legitimate (1992:35). They comment: "Attempts to exert political influence on the scientists invariably failed" (ibid), and add: "Despite aggressive criticism from certain individual scientists, the IPCC consensus still commands wide recognition and respect" (ibid).

Dr Jeremy Leggett, the scientific advisor on global warming for a major environmental campaigning organisation (Greenpeace), agrees with Boehmer-Christiansen in describing the IPCC work as "an ongoing scientific consultation process which, in its breadth and depth, is without precedent" (Leggett, 1993:43). Both Leggett and Boehmer-Christiansen, however, voice disquiet at assumptions that the consensus so far achieved can claim to be objective or represents value-free science.

The problems of consensus

At the end of 1991 Greenpeace polled the 400 climate scientists for their opinions on global warming ( New Scientist , 1992). Of 113 who returned the questionnaires (ibid), about half thought a runaway greenhouse effect possible if no mitigating measures were taken (Leggett, 1993:46). Some 13 percent thought it probable (ibid). Leggett notes: "This worst-case analysis was not articulated in the IPCC report" and described the acceptance of lowest common denominators in the consensus as "a partial failure of the science advisory process" (ibid).

Boehmer-Christiansen (1995:3) goes further: "This informed IPCC opinion or set of negotiated best guesses reflects the conclusions not of the scientific community, which has no recognised process of consensus creation and would be shocked by the idea, but of a group identified as a handful of research managers close to a small number of governments." Not surprisingly, these governments were among the most active in the negotiations, if not in action to reduce emissions of so-called greenhouse gases.

Whatever the consensus achieved in 1992, it was no foregone conclusion. In his history of scientific opinion formation about acid precipitation, stratospheric ozone depletion, and global warming, a Republican Presidential advisor in the US, Michael Kowalok, points out that a pioneering 1985 meeting in Villach, Austria, bringing together climate scientists from 29 developed and developing countries, reached conclusions that "sharply conflicted with the conclusions of earlier groups" (Kowalok, 1993:36). He also noted that many researchers into these environmental issues were sceptical about the theories and even about their own research findings until they were able to exchange information with colleagues from around the world (ibid: 37).

The panel chair admits: "IPCC's conclusions have been criticized in Nature, other parts of the scientific literature and, to a greater extent, in the popular press, mainly for lack of openness about uncertainties and for brushing aside controversies" (Bolin, 1994). However, Bolin also argued that only "a few scientists [...] believe that little can be said about future climate based on our present knowledge" (ibid).

Among those criticizing the IPCC assessment, the most respected is probably Professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Even Leggett (1993) describes him as a "world class meteorologist."

Among climate scientists, however, there is no doubt that Lindzen represents a minority view. Further, his associations with industry have made him suspect (see below).

In fact, the IPCC academic opponents influential in US official circles have all come from outside the meteorological community. Professor William Nordhaus, for example, is a Yale University economist. The campaigning environmental magazine The Ecologist remarked: "Nordhaus's views on global warming are neither an aberration within his profession nor are they without consequence" (1992:42). John Gribbin further reported that the two scientists who had President Bush's ear in their criticisms of the IPCC consensus were an astronomer and oceanographer (Gribbin, 1990).

The politics of consensus

But what kind of consensus was, in fact, achieved by the scientific panel? Matthew Paterson (1994:185) declares: "The IPCC Report, as a consensus document, was fairly cautious, especially in its assessment of potential impacts." The IPCC chair has made clear his approval of caution: "I believe that balanced and careful reviews of current knowledge are of great value both to help public awareness and to assist political decision-making"(Bolin, 1994). Clayton notes approvingly: "Without the network of self-critical scientists in panels such as the IPCC there would be no credible consensus on which to base international action" (Clayton, 1995:128).

On the other hand, Boehmer-Christansen (1995:2-3,8) argues that the IPCC ideal of consensus enabled British scientists to deliberately take a lead in the assessment work with an agenda of their own, and one which increasingly also served the interests of the UK Government (p13). In a British Government publication, K. Mason even asserted: "Atmospheric issues [...] allow the UK to exercise its science leadership [...] and maintain a seat at the [international] table in terms of future standards, responsibilities and opportunities"(Mason, 1993:33).

Under such pressures, the IPCC became narrowly 'scientific' rather than pro-active, against German and French demands for immediate action in place of more research (Boehmer-Christiansen, 1995:12). At the same time, the negotiations were put in a legal context which maintained British sovereignty over national control measures rather than ceding them to the European Commission (ibid). Speaking to the Second World Climate Conference in 1990, the UK Prime Minister of the time, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, perhaps not surprisingly, praised the scientific consensus, describing it as remarkable (ibid:13).

Academic John Vogler (1995:204) pointed out the politics behind the science in the climate change issue. The creation of the IPCC, he says, represented "a successful attempt by governments (notably the US government) to assert national control over the climate change research process".

The IPCC was set up as an intergovernmental panel, and the working groups for the scientific reviews consisted of national scientists funded by research agencies, with inevitable criticisms that they represented national interests (ibid:205). Boehmer-Christiansen points out that Bolin is a research manager close to the Swedish government (1995:10).

Developing countries saw themselves as poor relatives at this banquet. Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain from a New Delhi scientific 'think tank' accused the US-based World Resources Institute of "politically motivated mathematics" when WRI produced a "global pollution" league table which put India and China among the top ten contributors to the greenhouse effect.

The Indian think tank researchers pointed out that the world's two largest nations do not appear among the 20 major problem states if the league table is calculated according to per capita emissions (Pearce, 1992:55).

This is not a rare source of tension. Vogler notes similarities with complaints from developing nations that demands for specialized technological knowledge kept them out of the decision-making process for international telecommunications (documented in Jasentuliyana and Chipman, 1985) while these complaints were treated as attempts to "politicize" the negotiators' technical work (Vogler, 1995:205)

The political sides in the debate came sharply into focus within the European Union. The British conflict with France and Germany has been already noted. In the debate on control measures, the European Commission, its Environment Directorate, and the governments of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands pressed for an energy/carbon tax, with the tactical support of others (Bergesen and Sydnes:40). The Brussels lobbies of the electricity industry and large users of industrial energy such as chemical, cement and steel groups fiercely opposed such taxation, and the proposals were dropped (ibid).

Bergesen and Sydnes suggest that the European Commission's ambitions to play a major role in world politics lay partly behind its efforts for the Climate Change Convention, particularly because of the vacuum left by US reluctance to take action (ibid:40-1). In the US, Leggett records, the minority scientific view was financially underwritten by parts of the energy industry: "Lindzen's conclusion that the threat of climate change has been overestimated by the IPCC has found strong favour with the coal and oil lobby, who advance his ideas in their publications on global warming, and fly him regularly to international venues to promote his conclusion" (Legget, 1993:45).

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."

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).

Knowledge-based communities

The concept of "epistemic communities" was developed by Peter Haas (1992) to focus attention on the communities of "experts" that have grown up in the world of environmental policies, influential in defining the dimensions of a problem and proposing solutions (ibid:42-3). He defines epistemic communities as "transnational networks of knowledge-based communities that are both politically empowered through their claims to exercise authoritative knowledge and motivated by shared causal and principled beliefs" (ibid:41). Though direct descent is denied, Vogler sees links with the older "neo-functionalist" view of international organization, particularly in its opposition between politics and "ecologically sound consensual knowledge" (Vogler, 1995:204-5).

Environmental issues, in particular, tend to involve political and social as well as scientific issues. Keith Clayton (1995:128) argues "The environmental sciences exist in a world of power, prejudice, wishful thinking and unjustified alarm." O'Riordan (1995:112) comments: "One can see very quickly how science can be ambushed for ideological and political purposes."


Boehmer-Christiansen described the global warming issue as "greenwash for unpopular energy and taxation policies" (1995:1). O'Riordan (1995:6) also argues that the function of the IPCC in part was to provide formal justification of international control measures that would be expensive and cost jobs.

Boehmer-Christiansen further suggests that opportunistic responses to political developments, rather than new findings as claimed by scientists, led to policy changes (1995:10). As for the panel concern with consensus, she comments: "What consensual knowledge does improve is the influence of its creator" (ibid:2). In the case of the IPCC, British research leaders were able to switch much of the national research activity towards global environmental change at a time of severe reductions in other fields (ibid:8), while increasing centralized control over British science policy (ibid:1).

Buying scientific credibility

O'Riordan notes that scientists have almost as much credibility with the general public as medical practitioners and the clergy. Journalists and politicians are at the bottom (1995:6).

As a result, O'Riordan reports, industry is seeking alliances with environmental scientists across a broad range of issues. Epistemic community theorists, too, as Vogler points out, realize that they can only change attitudes if the power structure is understood and used (1995:209). Clayton declares: "Good environmental science has to be both interactive and politically sensitive"(1995:127).

It has even been observed of the climate change scientists: "The function of IPCC has been to co-ordinate and initiate research" rather than provide policy advice (Underdat and Skodvin, 1994:35)

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).

A utilitarian hypothesis

Vogler sees the inadequacies of both perspectives and suggests a "utilitarian hypothesis" of stable and self-sustaining regimes (1995:207). "The recent history of environmental régime-building and change reveals that, contrary to the fixed motivational assumptions of both realism and liberal utilitarianism, shifting public values and their articulation by what might loosely be described as idealistic political movements cannot be discounted," he observes (ibid:208).

Such multiple-paradigm explanations are common enough in global political issues that they require a collective label. I would suggest "post-realism", recognising the predominant role of state institutions in the present international system, while giving full weight to other factors, such as industry and epistemic communities. "Post-realism" accepts that science policy is expressed internationally through the "world of states" (Miller, 1981:12) but it can only be fully understood via John Burton's "cobweb model" (Mitchell, 1984; p62) of political structures and processes rather than through the "billiard ball" (conflictual) metaphor (ibid).

A cobweb model, modified

This cobweb model needs to be supplemented in two crucial directions, however, to be functional in this, as in many other spheres. The minor amendment is that the cobweb model is not taken to imply a "world society" that is differentiated from a more primitive world of international relations (ibid): it can deal with a "broken cobweb" in which parts of the global polity cannot be described as part of global politics.

More substantially, post-realism (accepting the contributions of liberal-pluralism and Marxism to political theory) requires analysts to specify the dynamics of the links between the strands of the "cobweb". To use a biological analogy, it tries to move global politics forward from taxonomy towards ecology without getting stuck in natural history.

Both Boehmer-Christiansen (1995:7) and O'Riordan (1995:6) note the legitimation role of science for political decisions, which seems to place this special community outside the control of normal political actors, even when it "extends science into the world of politics, commerce and social change" (O'Riordan, 1995:11).

Through the issue of global climate change, Boehmer-Christiansen suggests, "the global R&D enterprise discovered a new value-free, fundable paradigm[...] Opportunities to address 'policy-makers' proved to be an irresistible invitation for research leaders to tell governments how little knowledge they actually possessed and how much more would be required for rational policy" (1195a:3,11)

Rom Harré has pointed out that the class-permeated theories of straightforward Marxism offer "too general a thesis to be convincing as an explanation for the origin and spread of specific scientific ideas" (Harré, 1985:193). However, David Bloor, arguing from a neo-Marxist perspective in Knowledge and Social Imagery (1976, cited by Harré), has suggested that scientific preferences lead to the appearance of certain sorts of ideas which, looked at rather broadly, will be seen to be correlated with the class interests of the scientists involved (ibid:194). This argument is treated more sympathetically by Harré. However, it does not presuppose a dualistic Marxist view of class. The Weberian view of class as a collection of similar interest groups seems equally valid.


Among the political scientists, O'Riordan (1995:5) has argued that environmental science needs to see itself as part of the structures of pressure, power, lobbying, prejudice and dispute resolution, what has been termed "civic science". The history of the Framework Convention on Global Climate Change, however, showed environmental scientists firmly grasping this concept to become manipulators as well as tools of state and international institutions. One strategy was to separate "science" from "policy" in time-honoured fashion, a division that remains essentially contested (Buzan, 1984:7, citing W.B. Gallie) on both general grounds and with regard to the climate convention's decision-making process. Nevertheless, this proved sound strategically, particularly because of the implications of the policy recommendations for the economy and industry.

The process showed that only a paradigm which acknowledges the predominant role of nation-states, the agenda-setting capabilities of national and international actors such as industry and the public, and the self-interested contribution of other players can fully explain developments. The scientists, led by 'reductionist' British research managers, promoted a narrow view of science's contribution to the debate while at the same time formulating their assessment in terms that strengthened their claims to public science budgets. They were also able to assert scientific hegemony over the issues, excluding much from public debate. Perhaps it is therefore is not surprizing that Professor Bolin, identified as close to the Swedish Government, has asserted as chair of the IPPC: "In my view, it is impossible to resolve key scientific issues in articles aimed at the general public.[...] the scientific issues cannot so easily be explained" (Bolin, 1994).


(Sources consulted are indicated by *)

* Bergesen, H.O. & Sydnes, A.K. (1992), Protection of the Global Climate -- Ecological Utopia or Just a Long Way to Go? Green Globe Yearbook 1992, Frijdhoff Nansen Institute.

* Boehmer-Christiansen, S.A. (1995), Britain and the International Panel on Climate Change: The Impacts of Scientific Advice on Global Warming Part 1: Integrated Policy Analysis and the Global Dimension, Environmental Politics , Vol 4, No 1, Spring 1995: 1-18. Frank Cass.

* Bolin, B. (1994), Next step for climate-change analysis, Nature , 10 March 1994, Vol 368:94.

* Bull, H. (1979), from Daedalus, in Global Politics, Block V Readings . Open University.

de Groot, W.T. (1993) Environmental science theory: concepts and methods in a one-world, problem-oriented paradigm . Dordrecht: Elsevier, cited by O'Riordan (1995).

* Buzan, B. (1991), People, States and Fear , Harvester Wheatsheaf.

* Clayton, K. (1995), The threat of global warming, in O'Riordan (1995) below.

* Common Inheritance (1994) HMSO Cm 2549

* The Ecologist (1992), Pascal's Wager and Economics in a Hotter Time, Vol 22, No 2.

* Gribbin, J. (1990), An assault on the climate consensus, New Scientist , 15 December 1990, Vol. 128 No.1747.

* Haas, P.M. (1992), Obtaining International Environmental Protection through Epistemic Consensus in Rowlands I.H. and Greene M., Global Environmental Change and International Relations , Macmillan.

* Harré, R. (1985), The Philosophies of Science , Oxford.

* Jasentuliyana N. and Chipman R. (1985), Developing counries, the GEO and the WARC-ORB 85 Conference, Space Policy , Vol. 1, No. 3, August 1985, Butterworth, in Global Politics : Block III Readings, 1988, Open Univerity.

* Kowalok, M. (1993), Research Lessons from Acid Rain, Ozone Depletion, and Global Warming, Environment , Vol. 35 No.6.

Lee, K. (1993), Compass and gyroscope: integrating science and politics for the environment . New York: Island Press, cited by O'Riordan, p11.

* Leggett, J. (1993), Anxieties and Opportunities in Climate Change, Threats without enemies . Earthscan.

* McNeely, J. (1995), IUCN in the 21st Century, A discussion paper. Unpublished, available from IUCN. 1 September 1995.

* Miller, J.D.B. (1981), The World of States, in Global Politics, Block V Readings . Open University.

* Milne, A. (1993), The perils of green pessimism, New Scientist , 5 June:33-5.

Earthscan.and Skodvin, T. (1994), The Science-Politics Interface, paper cited by Boehmer-Christiansen (1995).

* Mitchell, C.R. (1984), from Conflict in World Society, in Global Politics, Block V Readings . Open University.

* Moss, R.H. (1995), IPCC Visits Impacts, Adaptation, and Mitigation Strategies, Climate Change Bulletin , Issue 7, 2nd Quarter 1995.

* New Scientist (1992), Runaway greenhouse warming 'cannot be rule ( sic ) out. 15 February 1992, Vol 133 No. 1808:19.

* O'Riordan, T. ed. (1995), Environmental Sciences for Environmental Management . Longmans.

* Paterson, M. (1994), The Politics of Climate Change after UNCED, in Thomas, C. Rio: Unravelling the Consequences , Frank Cass.

* Pearce, F. (1992), Ecology and the new colonialism, New Scientist , Vol. 133 No. 1806.

* de Selincourt, K (1995), Dedicated followers of fashion, New Scientist, Vol 147 No. 1995.

Underdal, A. and Skodvin, T. (1994), The Science-Politics Interface, paper cited by Boehmer-Christiansen (1995:).

* Vogler, J. (1995), The Global Commons , Wiley.

Warrick, R.A., Jones P.D. and Russell J.E. (1988), The Greenhouse Effect, Climatic Change and Sea Level: an Overview. Paper prepared for the Commonwealth Expert Group on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise. London. May 1988, cited by McNeely, p27.

Appendix I: The IPCC consensus on climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that many climatologists believe that global warming as a result of the accumulation of trace gases in the atmosphere could raise the world's average temperature by 2°C within 50 years and mean sea-levels would rise by around 30-50cm by 2030 (McNeely, 1995, p 27, citing Warrick, 1988).

McNeely (1995:27) summarizes the degrees of consensus found by the panel as follows:




Basic characteristics

Fundamental physics of the greenhouse effect

Virtually certain


Added greenhouse gases add heat

Virtually certain


Greenhouse gases increasing because of human activity

Virtually certain


Significant reduction of uncertainty will require a decade or more

Virtually certain


Full recovery will require many centuries

Virtually certain

Projected effects by mid-21st Century




Large stratospheric cooling

Virtually certain


Global mean surface-precipitation increase

Very probable


Reduction of sea ice

Very probable


Arctic winter surface warming

Very probable


Rise in global sea-level



Local details of climate change



Tropical storm increases



Details of next 25 years


In this table,

Virtually certain means there is nearly unanimous agreement among scientists and no credible alternative view

Very probable means there is roughly a 90% chance of occurrence

Probable means there is approximately a 2/3 chance of occurrence

Uncertain means the evidence is lacking for the hypothesized effect                  


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