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The Politics of Environmental Science. Solving environmental problems almost always requires scientific (or technical) knowledge. Differences between scientific and technical? Science is supposed to be apolitical.

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the politics of environmental science
The Politics of Environmental Science
  • Solving environmental problems almost always requires scientific (or technical) knowledge.
    • Differences between scientific and technical?
  • Science is supposed to be apolitical.
  • Environmental science nonetheless is a recurrent source of controversy -- i.e., there are constant disagreements about the nature of nature.
  • One way to resolve disputes is to decide who has the last word.
  • How do we do this for science?


standard explanations for scientific controversies
Standard Explanations for Scientific Controversies
  • Abuse of science (e.g., Mooney)
    • Proposition: Policymakers know what science says and calls for but they don’t do it for (bad) political reasons:
      • Interests (politicians, regulators, corporations, environmentalists)
      • Ignorance (politicians, judges, lay publics)
      • Distortionand bias (media)
  • Uncertainty
    • Proposition: Science should eliminate need for politics, but there just isn’t enough knowledge. Therefore, we
      • Need more science (policy: do more research)
      • Need better science (policy: get better peer review and expert advice)


application to the science of climate change
Application to the Science of Climate Change
  • Anthropogenic climate change is:
    • Scientific truth, contradicted mainly by industry-funded “manufactured uncertainty”
    • Product of strategic research reflecting the biases of well-placed, well-funded, self-interested scientists
  • Which view is more satisfactory?
  • Which view better explains why Europeans don’t contest climate change science but Americans do?
  • Are there other possible views?


questions for climate change video clips
Questions for Climate Change Video Clips
  • What do the producers of each account mean when they refer to “science”?
  • Who do they turn to for authoritative science?
  • What techniques do they use to establish their own credibility in speaking for science?
  • How do they build trust or distrust in particular claims?
  • How do they use the visual medium?


forums for political debate
Forums for Political Debate
  • Classical model
    • Political deliberation (legislative, regulatory)
      • Designated places
      • Formal rules of access, representation, expression of views
    • Agora or public sphere in the modern world (newspapers, TV, print media)
      • Partially licensed spaces, with balance requirements
      • Legal protection against personal attacks and misrepresentations


forums for scientific debate when science speaks to policy
Forums for Scientific Debate (when science speaks to policy)
  • Labs and scientific workplaces
  • Research grant applications
  • Conferences
  • Journals and publications
  • Scientific advisory committees
  • Congressional hearings
  • Courts


the unruly public sphere for environmental science
The Unruly Public Sphere for environmental science
  • What rules govern An Inconvenient Truth or The Great Global Warming Swindle?
  • Where do these rules, if any, come from; and who is responsible for making them?
  • What penalties are there for error or misrepresentation?
  • Who gets to express dissent, and where?
  • Who listens?