Climate research at the interface of science, politics and democracy
Anthropogenic climate change is one of the most complex and politically contested environmental issues of our times. Scientifically it concerns the climatic effects of human induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emission to the atmosphere. Through fossil fuel burning and land use change human societies have during the past century increased the concentrations of GHG in the atmosphere and thus enhanced the natural greenhouse effect that is controlling the temperature and climatic conditions on Earth. This daunting scientific image of human induced climate change gained political attention in the late 1980s and has since then resulted in a wide range of policy responses on local, national and global scales.
In my research I draw attention to the role of science and expertise in the making, interpretation and use of knowledge about climate change. Inspired by Foucualdian governmentality studies I ask myself where the image of the climate as a global and integrated system comes from and what role scientifc methods and techniques for measuring carbon have played for the political imagining of the climate as a governable domain. Governmentality studies typically assume that the ways in which we think about and represent the climate are intimately linked to the ways in which it is acted upon and governed. Hence, in order to understand what is thought, said and done in climate politics, we need to study the knowledge practices that make these things thinkable, sayable and doable.
Following this analytical tradition, my research has focused on the close links between knowledge-making and decision-making in the UN negotiations on climate change. In my doctoral research I studied the scientific know-how that made it possible to establish terrestrial carbon sequestration as a thinkable and legitimate climate mitigation option in the Kyoto Protocol. I also examined how the making of carbon sink policies affected the funding, design and interpretation of reserach questions in the carbon cycle science community. In my more recent studies, I have made similar investigations into the making of the global carbon economy as a thinkable and governable domain. By studying carbon market governance through the expert practices that have constituted 1 tonnes of reduced CO2 in the atmosphere as viable commodity, I have sought to make science subject to political analysis.
In recent years my research has also explored the normative dimensions of climate expertise. Inspired by scholarly and practical efforts to involve citizens in decisions about science, I examine the role of climate science in democratic societies. Is there a tension between democratic governance and professional expertise? If so, to what extent can public involvement in the funding, interpretation and use of climate science foster more legitimate forms of expertise?
Name: Eva Lövbrand
Title: PhD, Assistant Professor
Department: Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research
Ph: +46 11 363393
Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research
Department of Thematic Studies
Last updated: 2009-11-10