The science and politics of climate change
Sunday 28 October, 11.00am until 12.30pm, Lecture Theatre 1 Battle for Science

‘Climate change is our moon landing.’ So said Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, at the end of 2006. According to Rees the task of avoiding catastrophic climate change should be an inspiring and galvanising challenge for the scientists of today and tomorrow. In February 2007, at the press launch of the Summary for Policy Makers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 4th report on climate change, we were told that the human impact on the climate is ‘unequivocal’ and that urgent action is needed.

The issue of the negative effects of climate change is rarely out of the media and is increasingly portrayed in alarming terms. Politicians of all persuasions attest to the seriousness of the situation and are competing to present their green credentials, alongside business, local government and pretty much every major public organisation.

But what does science tell us about how we should respond to climate change? Are scientists becoming involved in campaigning for particular political responses, and, if so, is this a good or bad thing? Is the time for debate really over, or are political choices being obscured by talk of scientific consensus? Are the threats so great and the science so certain that there really is only one course of action?


Professor Chris Rapley CBE
director, Science Museum; outgoing director, British Antarctic Survey
Hans von Storch
director, Institute for Coastal Research, GKSS Research Centre; professor at Meteorological Institute, University of Hamburg
Dr Joe Kaplinsky
assistant professor, DTU Nanotech; co-author, Energise! A Future for Energy Innovation
Tony Gilland
associate fellow, Institute of Ideas

 Produced by

Tony Gilland associate fellow, Institute of Ideas

Climate science: truth you can wear on your hands, Stuart Blackman and Ben Pile

 Recommended readings

Chaotic world of climate truth
To state the climate change will be "catastrophic" hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from from empirical or theoretical science
Mike Hulme, BBC News, 3 November 2006

The appliance of science
If scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking and reveal fully the values and beliefs they bring to their scientific activity.
Mike Hulme, Society Guardian, 13 March 2007

Earth is too crowded for Utopia
If the size of the human "footprint" is taken to be a serious problem then a rational view would be that along with a raft of measures to reduce the footprint per person, the issue of population management must be addressed.
Professor Chris Rapley, BBC News, 5 January 2006

The dangers of climate change
Outgoing Director of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, discusses the scientific evidence linking warming in the Antarctic peninsula to human activity
Professor Chris Rapley, Global Public Media, 22 June 2005

How global warming research is creating climate of fear
Science is deteriorating into a repair shop for conventional, politically opportune scientific claims. Not only does science become impotent; it also loses its ability to objectively inform the public.
Hans von Storch and Nico Stehr, Der Spiegel, 23 January 2005

The Media and Climate Change and Degrees in Alternative Medicine
Watch Claire Fox News on the media and climate change.
Claire Fox News, 18 Doughty Street TV, 12 April 2007

recommended by spiked

Digging up the roots of the IPCC
Tony Gilland, 31 May 2007

The bear necessities of climate change politics
Rob Lyons, 15 March 2007

Let the Puritans protest
Brendan O’Neill, 29 July 2007

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