Thesis case studies, justification for


in M.Phil thesis, Oxford, Politics, Science, The environment, Writing

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Kyoto Protocol are both attempts at a multilateral solution to a previously unknown transboundary environmental problem. The reasons for which these case studies are useful for accessing fundamental questions about the science-policy relationship are several:

  1. Each agreement addresses an environmental problem that only recently became known.
  2. Each deals with a problem that is essentially transboundary, and requires concerted effort to resolve.
  3. Each involves scientific uncertainty, both about the material effects of the problem in the world and about the different characteristics of possible approaches for dealing with it.
  4. Each involves normative and distributional issues, with regards to groups that benefit or are harmed by the application of the agreement.

As such, each represents the outcome of a dialogue between stakeholders and experts. The former group is concerned with securing their interests, or those of their principles, such as they are understood at the time of interaction. The basis upon which this group operates is that of legitimacy: either implicitly held among those representing themselves, or transferred through a process, agreement, or institution to a representative whose legitimacy is premised upon advocacy.

The latter group is concerned with the generation and evaluation of data. Understood broadly here, ‘data’ are claims about the ontological nature of the world. This includes claims that are rigorously verifiable (such as those about the medical effects of certain pollutants) as well as those involving considerable interpretation (such as the meaning of international law).

The groups are not mutually exclusive, and many individuals and organizations played an overlapping role in the development of the agreements. Through the examination of these two case studies, as well as related matters, this thesis will engage with the interconnections between expertise and legitimacy in global environmental policy making, with a focus on agreements in areas with extensive normative ramifications.

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