Friday, December 23, 2011

Hulme: "a change in the unquestioning support I might earlier have given to certain unreflexive policy discourses and advocacy campaigns"

Mike Hulme

(22 December) NEW: A personal narrative of my research career, showing how my ideas about climate change have evolved since I was an undergraduate student (1978-1981) and placing my publications into this historical account.

From Hulme's narrative:

what I do offer here is a story - a narrative structure - that may help others see the journey I am on and explain why my published work at different stages of my career may have been different, distinct and even at times contradictory.
The world that we study – the climates that we seek to understand – is not simply out there in pure form waiting to be discovered by the impartial mind. These climates that we bring to life are partly created through our processes of enquiry. That the knowledge about climate and climate change that I have offered my peers and my readers throughout my career does not always stitch together into a seamless whole, is therefore at least partly a function of the limitations and biases of my own mind and of its subjection to external (and internal) influences. This is one sense therefore in which my own ‘science’ of climate change has been ‘post-normal’ (cf. Hulme, 2007a,b). A full disclosure of these biases and inadequacies can of course never be delivered, neither by me nor by my interlocutors.
‘Uncertainties’ were very evident in my work – regularly dealing with both data uncertainties and model uncertainties. But although I published significant papers on these issues, I did not have available to me the analytical tools from critical or philosophical disciplines to reflect more deeply about what such uncertainty signified, nor how this related to public policy-making. In CRU I was immersed in a contract research environment where my employment continuity and that of my group was dependent upon gaining the next research contract or consultancy. It would take me several more years to be able to adopt a more reflexive stance to my own work...In the autumn of 1997 I had been proactive with colleagues in compiling a list of nearly 800 signatories amongst European climate change-related scientists to an open letter to the European delegations convening in Kyoto urging them to lend their weight behind the idea of legally-binding emissions reductions targets. It was to be another 10 years before I revoked on this conviction, becoming convinced that this approach was misguided and ineffective (Hulme, 2010a; Prins et al., 2010)...
These three essays signalled my growing unease about some of the ways in which (climate) science was being presented and deployed in public debates. My exposure to a wider range of academic disciplines allowed me to adopt a more critical stance in how I perceived the relations between climate change science, public knowledge and discourse and policy development
...Using newly discovered – for me! - theories and insights from science and technology studies and the geography of science, I became more critical of the ways in which climate change knowledge was made and exercised. The object of my critiques were not only my own earlier production of UKCIP climate scenarios (Hulme and Dessai, 2008a), but also the knowledge claims of the IPCC (Hulme, 2008b; 2010b; Hulme et al., 2010; Hulme and Mahony, 2010) and of the different ways in which climate knowledge gets validated (Hulme, 2010c). I also examined the deficiencies of global kinds of climate knowledge more generally (Hulme, 2010d; O’Neill et al., 2010) and the limitations of their use in policy (Hulme, 2008b,c; Hulme et al., 2011).
...My thinking which underlay this change (to some people a rather surprising change) in my analysis of climate change – at least a change in the unquestioning support I might earlier have given to certain unreflexive policy discourses and advocacy campaigns – was laid out most comprehensively in my 2009 book Why We Disagree About Climate Change (Hulme, 2009c).

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