Title: Knowledge, democracy and action in response to climate change
Publisher: Routledge
Publication Year: 2010
JRC N°: JRC54400
ISBN: 0-203-85531-0
URI: https://www.crcpress.com/Interdisciplinarity-and-Climate-Change-Transforming-Knowledge-and-Practice/Bhaskar-Frank-Hoyer-Naess-Parker/p/book/9780415573887
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Climate change has entered at the top of the national and international political agendas. The urge for change is global in more than one sense of the word: • First, the problem encompasses all countries, and so seems to be demanding world-wide communication and understanding. • Second, it cuts through literally every sector of society, posing huge problems for the co-ordination of action across a number of sectors traditionally separated. • Third, it potentially concerns every aspect of our lives, be that as parents, professionals, community members, citizens, habitants or political subjects, not to mention our roles as consumers of goods, transportation, services and culture. There are many problematic aspects related to these challenges, many of which relate to their complexity, interconnectedness and far-reaching implications across a number of scales and boundaries of disciplinary, institutional and national character. Many of these problems are noted and accepted within most dominant approaches to climate change policy. However, we contend in this chapter, at the same time as such problems are recognised, most policy approaches are hampered by a lack of appreciation of the cultural and democratic character of scientific knowledge and of the difficult relations of knowledge to action. Whereas many recognise these issues as central, they are more often than not left out of the analytical framework. The risk is therefore real that we, even with the best of intentions, end up reproducing or exacerbating predominant problems, or even produce new ones. This appears even more so when we consider the mounting political pressures building up as the sense of climate urgency increases. The growing sense of urgency is mainly brought forward through the increasing acceptance and attention given to the IPCC reports. But that attention can hardly be separated from increasing numbers of reports about natural catastrophes and extreme weather from all over the world, such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami, floods in Latin America and Europe, drought and desertification in Africa and the Middle East. Even less so can these events be separated from the attention given them in the media: nationally and globally, climate change has taken centre stage in the headlines. Therefore, even if we do not know whether hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming, that particular association is becoming increasingly easy to make. As noted by Mario Giampetro (2008), the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Oscar to one and the same person says something about the unique position and context of the climate change issue. Within this situation there is a growing danger of policy vacuums, i.e. a growing sense of urgency coupled with a lack of knowledge of what to do and a lack of institutions where the issues could be addressed. The mere feeling of environmental crisis may pave the way for states of exception (Agamben, 2005), and open up the scope for Machiavellian politics (Beck, 1998) in which power goes unchecked. The climate change problem is a highly politicised problem, the potential of which is amplified manifold through its intimate connection with the powerful sectors of energy, industry and technology. The main argument of this chapter is that there is a need to take (at least) some of the focus off from model-based predictions of future consequences of climate change, to redirect attention towards social and political problems in the present, and to find related ways of embedding the problems within concrete practices and local communities. We argue that, for this to take place, there is a need to reconsider the models of human agency inherent in many analyses of climate change policy, and for integrating broader and more inclusive models of knowledge and agency into the basis for decision making.
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