By MIKE HULME, author of Exploring Climate Change Through Science And In Society.
Exploring Climate Change Through Science And In Society
How people understand, talk about and act upon climate change today is significantly different from how these things were approached in the 1980s. Not only have physical climates around the world changed – temperatures for example are on average warmer than they were a generation ago and there is less ice on the planet – but the very idea of climate and its cultural and political meanings has altered even more. New social movements and business practices exist today because of climate change. New vocabularies have been invented to describe the phenomenon and new forms of artistic representation have been created.
There are, of course, many ways to understand these changes that have taken place. Anthropologists, for example, might study changing cultural accounts of weather, climate and human agency, political scientists the ways in which climate change has altered negotiations between nation states and media analysts the changing framing of climate change in print, broadcast and social media. Earth system scientists are more likely to quantify and simulate the changing flows of energy, moisture and carbon dioxide through the planetary system, while historians might seek to make sense of these changes by studying the historiography of climate change: who has written about it, when, why and how.
Exploring Climate Change Through Science And In Society offers another approach: by following the written and spoken words of someone who has dedicated several decades to the professional study of climate. Admittedly this is an idiosyncratic way of following the changing idea of climate change, but at its simplest this is why this anthology has been compiled. Drawing upon the many book reviews, opinion essays, media commentaries, more popular magazine articles or book chapters and some public speeches and interviews I have published or delivered over the last 25 years, the material in Exploring Climate Change engages with science, politics, policy, the media, ethics, sociology, religion and philosophy. The collection shows the different ways in which it is necessary to approach the idea of climate change to be able to make sense of the divergent and discordant voices proclaiming and contesting it in the public sphere.
The material is grouped together in seven themes - Science; Researching; Culture; Policy; Communicating; Controversy; Futures - and within each theme items are arranged chronologically to reveal the changing evidence, perspectives and debates about climate change. These reflections reveal the changes in scientific and social understandings of climate change that have occurred since the late 1980s as refracted through the mind and expression of one leading academic and public commentator. All of the items are reproduced here as they originally appeared in print or as they were delivered in spoken word. What sense I made of climate change at each stage of the story – in terms of scientific understanding, political impact or cultural significance – matters if the value of this book is to be realized.
Exploring Climate Change Through Science And In Society is a unique project with regard to science communication and public engagement around climate change. Since the Climategate controversy erupted at the end of 2009, there has been a sea-change in the perceived and actual relationships between climate scientists and their various publics and significant changes have occurred in both the tone and content of public and policy discourse of climate change. Criticism of the conventional framing of climate change has gained a louder voice, climate scientists have been called upon to be more open, honest and transparent about their work and climate policy continues to struggle to find effective ways of diffusing some of the potential risks of human-induced climate change. This collection of some of the popular writings and public reflections of a climate scientist, scholar and communicator contributes to this new mood of openness and mutual exploration.