Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Divorce? Lovers finally stumble across boundary object which once kept them together!

This is a short story of love and divorce between two once promising partners, as told by Oliver Geden, senior research fellow from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs on the Political Science blog in the Guardian. Here we go:

It's no secret that climate science has a hot affair with politics. What keeps them together is a so-called boundary object, the magical 2 degree target:
 For almost two decades, the 2°C target has served as a common reference point for climate policy and climate science, as a "boundary object" that allows these two different spheres to communicate and interact productively.

 As it is common in modern relationships, each of the partners makes different use of the magical object:
In climate policy, the 2°C target has served primarily as a prominent symbol of the orientation toward an ambitious emissions mitigation agenda. In climate science, the target is used as the basis for complex calculations, especially to determine target-compatible carbon budgets and emissions reduction paths.

But now it is highly probable that it comes to a divorce. Once you start to negotiate the non-negotiable, the magic is gone. No more cross-dressing, no more scientification of politics, no more politicization of science. Instead, once the promise is broken, politics will be politics and science will be science. That's the way it goes, everybody knows...

And is there a moral to the story? Kind of. The senior policy advisor has some good advice for the scientific policy advisors:
 In the near future, scientific policy advisors will have to carefully re-examine their role. When appearing in the media or before parliamentary committees, they should not attempt to distill the enormous volume and range of climate research into explicit demands for political action. Rather, they should restrict themselves to presenting the conditions and consequences of specific policy alternatives (pdf).

Will climate science be able to cool its hot temper? Will politics finally learn to live on its own? More here soon on your favorite blog, die Klimazwiebel!


Hans von Storch said...

Tolle Zusammenfassung! Hut ab.- Hans

eduardo said...

In a comment about the IPCC, I wrote a few years ago that policy makers should be kept out of the writing process of the IPCC, but some retorted that then the influence of scientist on policy makers would greatly diminish. I guess Werner would rephrase it as if science would lose sex-appeal as a marriage partner ?

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this comment?
"No, it's not a way to say that it's too late. It seems that von Storch wants to say that climate change isn't really that bad and that we could successfully adapt to it and because of that we shouldn't be worrying too much (I haven't read his book, I follow here what some web sites say about him or his book). Oliver Geden, the author of the present article, seems to be close to von Storch.
I would say that von Storch has a highly political view of climate science which is the basis for his critic of serious scientists who also play a political role in questions related to climate change in so far as they manifest themselves and talk publicly about climate change. I think that because von Storch doesn't like what many climate scientists say he prefers that they don't "talk". Sorry, I prefer to listen to what climate scientists have to say than to lobbysts."

itisi69 said...

" I wrote a few years ago that policy makers should be kept out of the writing process of the IPCC".

How can you ask that knowing the fact that IPCC was founded by guvmints and the task was "give us the scientific tools so we can enforce our politics". Too much prostitution has been seen in the whole climate discussion the last decade.

I like Werner's metafore but miss the role of the concubine...

Anonymous said...

"I like Werner's metafore but miss the role of the concubine..."

But the "concubine" of climate science would be the siren known as Green NGOs would it not?! And this "siren" has played a very important role in this "marriage",

Without the ever-present chorus from the siren, I doubt that this "marriage" would have lasted as long as it has.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Well, there have been several contenders for extra marital affairs, not only the Greens (interest groups in general). In the story of Ulysses the sirens are rendered ineffective by several tricks (by putting wax in his ears so he cannot hear them; by binding him to the mast so he does not leave course and the ship is kept steady).

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Oliver Geden writes that
'Compared to its influence on other public policies and national-level policymaking, the influence of science on international climate policy has always been relatively strong, both in terms of defining basic causal chains as well as in setting the short- to medium-term agenda.'

This is of course due to the influence of the IPCC on the UNFCCC process. In order for it to unravel, the whole architecture would need to be revisited, like Eduardo has suggested. I doubt this is on the cards any time soon. But I agree with the argument that the national level for climate policy is becoming more and more important and that the international level institutions will lose their role to a great extent.

On the national level we will see more 'sirens' AKA special interest groups lobbying for different options. In this context climate science will be given the place science has in other policy debates.

Anonymous said...

"presenting the conditions and consequences of specific policy alternatives"

"We recommend keeping our mother Earth happy by making expensive symbolic gestures and paying tithe to her high priests. However, we have no idea whether she will warm to us or give us the cold shoulder."

RainerS said...

Great post, Mr Krauss, makes my evening!

however, you are painting a bleak picture of marriage, it only being based on mutual exploitation. Most married people would be upset by your comparision!

The relation of science and politics in climate science appears to have more of an extra-marital affair. Shouldn´t science be married to the quest for knowledge and understanding? And politics to the "public good"? Stupid me...

And isn´t the role of NGOs and other (business) pressure groups somewhat resembling the classical cock-sure pimp´s role?

In addition, we have the media stalkers and voyeurs. High time to call in a psychologist.

Werner Krauss said...

In my opinion, there is no way back to a previous state of innocence; neither the infusion of a dose of Merton nor the surgical separation of science and politics will do. Instead, Oliver's just critique of the 2 degree boundary poses a new question and challenge: what's next? Where do we go now from here? The 2 degree boundary maybe will soon be just another episode in a history already full of failures; but in burying it, the problem at stake, climate change, will not disappear. So there is no reason to be too sarcastic, I guess.