Exciting new work on Climate Change with Joyce Havstad

Lately, besides my work on engineering ethics, I have been focusing on issues of science, values, and politics in global climate change. I started working on this topic a couple of years ago when Shane Ralson invited me to write a paper for his volume on pragmatism and international relations. I have been very lucky to have a collaborator on the project now, the wonderful and talented Joyce C. Havstad, currently the philosopher-in-residence (!!) at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

The short version of our approach is that there is a major disconnect between science and policy in this area, an inevitable result of the inadequacy of our models of science-based policy and science-policy interaction. On the science side, this disconnect manifests in the erroneous belief that science can be simultaneously policy-relevant and policy- or value-neutral. On the policy side, this manifests as a failure to see that climate policy must be pursued as an evidence-driven, tentative, hypothesis-testing, problem-solving practice. More broadly, the failure lies in models which treat science and policy as wholly heterogenous processes. To resolve the disconnect problem, we propose a new model that treats science and policy as partners in interdisciplinary inquiry and call for tighter integration of science and policy.

We’ve had the opportunity to present aspects of this research on several occasions this year. First, at the SRPoiSE / Communities of Integration conference in May, we argued against the IPCC’s presentation of its work as value- and policy-neutral. Then, at the FEMMSS/CSWIP conference on “Science, Technology, and Gender”, we presented our critique of existing models of science-based policy and offered a preliminary sketch of our new model. In November, we will be presenting at the Philosophy of Science Association, and the disconnect problem itself will be at the center of our focus. Hope to see you there!

(N.B. This news item prepared without feedback from Joyce. So while she deserves a lot of the credit for this awesome project, any errors and infelicities in this quick summary are surely my fault.)