Global Climate Change

How science works

Science is a process that advances our collective knowledge of the world by proposing and testing positive claims. Science is a social activity - not in the sense that a party is a social activity, something we do for the purpose of enjoying other people's company, but rather in the sense that a sports team or an orchestra is a social activity an activity that gains power from harnessing the skills and efforts of multiple people in pursuit of a common goal. The power of the social process of...

Global climate change a new type of environmental problem

Of all the environmental issues that have emerged in the past few decades, global climate change is the most serious, and the most difficult to manage. It is the most serious because of the severity of harms that it might bring. Many aspects of human society and well being - where we live, how we build, how we move around, how we earn our livings, and what we do for recreation - still depend on a relatively benign range of climatic conditions, even though this dependence has been reduced and...

Background on climate and climate change

The climate of a place, a region, or the Earth as a whole, is the average over time of the meteorological conditions that occur there - in other words, its average weather. For example, in the month of November between 1971 and 2000 in Washington D.C., the average daily high temperature was 14 C, the average daily low was 1 C, and 0.3 cm of precipitation fell.10 These average values, along with averages of other meteorological quantities such as humidity, wind speed, cloudiness, and snow and...

Limiting the damage the role of scientific assessments

The picture we have painted is bleak, but far from hopeless. Our view, which provides the motivation for writing this book, is that the climate-change issue is more confused and contentious than it needs to be, because of widespread misrepresentations of the state of scientific knowledge on relevant positive questions. Because of the different rules of scientific and policy debates, policy actors have ample opportunity and incentive to misrepresent scientific knowledge, by advancing claims that...

When science and politics meet

When the consequences of alternative policy choices depend on positive matters that are areas of active scientific research, policy-making requires some interchange between scientific and policy debate. While many areas of policy decisions require such interchange, it is essential in deciding how to respond to environmental risks like climate change, since the desirability of different courses of action depend on how much and how fast the climate is likely to change, the nature and severity of...

Politics and policy debates

Politics is concerned not with positive questions, but with collective action not what is true, but what shall we do Politics embraces the processes of argument, negotiation, and struggle over joint actions or decisions - most often the decisions of what policies will be adopted by government institutions. Like most competitive arenas, politics involves conflict but the conflict is bounded. In competitive sports, the boundaries are defined by the rules of the game as enforced by the officials....