Climate change, climate change, climate change. No day without new horror scenarios in the media and expert warnings. Lobbyists are busy as seldom before, politicians seize the opportunity to strenghten their public profile. Copenhagen has become the center of attention for the whole world. But then, controversity, conspiracy, attacs and doubts. Is the whole discussion about climate change nothing more than a big farce?
Mike Hulme’s book ‘Why we disagree about climate change: understanding controversity, inaction and opportunity’ aims to shed light on scientific arguments, cultural lenses and political agendas. For Hulme, a distinguished climate change scientist and Founding Director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia (UK), climate change is not a ‘problem’ waiting for ‘a solution’.
In his eyes, climate change is “an environmental, cultural and political phenomenon which is reshaping the way we think about ourselves, our societies and humanity’s place on Earth”. Consequently, his book discusses climate change from standpoints such as science, economics, faith, psychology, communication, sociology, politics and development.
“(…) I argue that climate change is not a problem that can be solved in the sense that, for example, technical and political resources were mobilised to solve the problem of stratospheric ozone depletion. Instead, I suggest a different starting point for coming to terms with the idea of climate change .I believe that human beings are more than material objects and that climate is more than a physical category. I suggest we need to reveal the creative psychological, ethical and spiritual work that climate change is doing for us. Understanding the ways in which climate change connects with foundational human instincts opens up possibilities for re-situating culture and the human spirit at the heart of our understanding of our changing climate (…)” (page 326).
“(…) The ultimate significance of climate change is ideological and symbolic rather than physical and substanitve (…)” (page 329).
Chapters include: The social meanings of climate, the discovery of climate change, the performance of science, the endowment of value, the things we believe, the things we fear, the communication of risk, the challenges of development, the way we govern, beyond climate change.
Conclusion: A must read book for anyone genuinly interested in the debate about climate change and all those whose critical mind impedes them from simply swallowing messages thrown at them from whatever direction. As climate change research based on imperfect computer models can only depict a certain degree of truth, critical minds are needed to accomplish public opinion and just argumentation. This book is a good start, by any means.
Hulme, M. (2009) Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversity, Inaction and Opportunity. Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 978-0-521-89869-0 (hardback)
Picture credit: rmlowe