Why We Disagree About Climate Change


in Books and literature, Politics, Science, The environment, Writing

My review of Mike Hulme’s book Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity has been published in the most recent issue of the Saint Antony’s International Review (STAIR). It is the fourth review down, starting on the eighth page of the PDF.

I found the book interesting, but too heavily focused on the psychological ramifications of climate change, compared with the real physical effects. To summarize:

In addition to being an observable physical phenomenon, climate change has taken on a broad range of social, political, and even theological meanings. Mike Hulme’s Why We Disagree About Climate Change seeks to chart out the major lines of argumentation that have emerged around the subject, as well as to consider the implications that flow from them, both in terms of climate policy and in terms of broader matters of ethics and public policy. Ultimately, Hulme argues that “climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can form and take shape” (p. 326). The range of discourses Hulme considers is restricted to a particular segment of the overall climate change debate—specifically, those contributors to the debate who accept three scientific touchstones: that greenhouse gases affect the climate system, the recorded rise in global temperatures, and the possibility of non-linear responses in the climate system. Restricting the scope of consideration in this way allows Hulme to exclude viewpoints that have no scientific basis. However, doing so also precludes examination of all relevant actors in the global political discussion about climate change policy. While Hulme effectively examines the social, cultural, and political aspects of climate change, he may inappropriately downplay the observed and possible future physical consequences resulting from greenhouse gas emissions.

The book is worthwhile for those with a major interest in the subject area, but I do not consider it to be one of the key texts on the science and policy of climate change.

Previously, STAIR published an article of mine about nuclear power.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

R.K. March 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Congratulations on the publication. The other reviewed books also look interesting.

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