Chapters 1 & 4: GENERAL COMMENTS

Both chapters seek to find convergences of approaches and understandings within a broad playing field including not only scientific experts but also lay audiences from different socio-cultural, national and geopolitical contexts, among other things. This is no small task in a globalizing, fragmented world characterized, above all, by its heterogeneity and complexity. The chapters constitute valuable syntheses of vast bodies of research from a variety of social scientific fields, at once describing and evaluating competing models by means of which to understanding social phenomena of relevance to interpretation of the threat of human-induced climate change and of competing (expert and non-expert) claims and perceptions concerning it. The authors provide an overview of literature and competing social scientific models and approaches relevant to study concerning social dimensions of expert and lay presentations and interpretations of human-induced climate change.

Both chapters render evident the existence of large amounts of social scientific work of relevance to human-induced climate change. In terms of natural scientists, this is valuable because natural scientists tend to have very little knowledge of this work. To the extent that natural scientists do have knowledge of social scientific work of relevance to human-induced climate change, this knowledge tends to be limited to integrated assessments and impacts studies which (usually rather uncritically) build on the work of physical scientists, particularly model-based "data." In the process, many valuable insights, and the overall critical potential of social scientific work, are overlooked, and scientistsí assumptions concerning the relationship between science, truth and power remain unchallenged. To the extent that scientists rather than social scientists dominate communication to the public, lay audiences also remain unexposed to these social scientific insights and critiques which could enable more complex and savy approaches to understanding scientific controversies and expert pronouncements.

The potential of these chapters to thus enhance understanding of dimensions of human-induced climate change, including the production and interpretation of scientific facts and claims with regards to this environmental threat as well as others, is limited by their length and density. Chapter 1 in is not particularly accessible to persons unfamiliar with the fields of research and bodies of literature being discussed. The risk is therefore that the authors "preach to the converted" (i.e. articulate their points in ways that are intelligible mostly to persons who already know the work described), even as an important part of their impact would depend on their ability to introduce non-social scientists to these too frequently overlooked bodies of work. Chapters 1 and 4 remain rather abstract and include language and terminology not easily accessible to uninitiated persons, including physical scientists and policy makers. In what follows, I will expand on these points.


Back to Table of Contents

Roger Pielke, Jr.'s Book Reviews and Publications | Roger Pielke, Jr.'s Home Page | ESIG Home Page