Philip Kitcher on “The Climate Change Debates”


Philip Kitcher, a philosopher of science at Columbia University, has published an essay in the journal Science, about the role of politics, economics, media and philosophy in the debate about climate change.

The essay requires a careful reading but if you have an interest in climate change and access to the journal, it is worth your time. To construct his argument, Kitcher, reviews eight published books about climate science and politics.

He says about the role of democracy

Democratic ideals have their place in the conduct of inquiry, for it is arguable that there should be more communication between scientists and outsiders in the construction of research agendas, in the discussion of standards of acceptable risk, and in the articulation of policies based on scientific consensus. Genuine democracy, however, requires a division of labor, in which particular groups are charged with the responsibility of resolving questions that bear on the interests of individuals and societies.

Other groups, those covering such questions in the media, have the duty to convey the results so that citizens can cast their votes as an enlightened expression of freedom, justifiably aimed at the outcomes for which they hope. Staging a brief disagreement between speakers with supposedly equal credentials, especially when it is not disclosed that one of them is answering to the economic aspirations of a very small segment of the society, is a cynical abnegation of that duty.

The eight books are:

  1. Merchants of Doubt. How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway Bloomsbury, New York, 2010.
  2. Why We Disagree About Climate Change. Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity by Mike Hulme, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009.
  3. Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen, Bloomsbury, New York, 2009.
  4. Science as a Contact Sport. Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate by Stephen H. Schneider, National Geographic, Washington, DC, 2009.
  5. The Lomborg Deception. Setting the Record Straight About Global Warming by Howard Frie, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2010.
  6. The Climate Solutions Consensus by David E. Blockstein and Leo Wiegman, Island Press, Washington, DC, 2010.
  7. Climate Change Science and Policy Stephen H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, Michael D. Mastrandrea, andKristin Kuntz-Duriseti, Eds. Island Press, Washington, DC, 2010.
  8. The Politics of Climate Change by Anthony Giddens Polity, Cambridge, 2009.

Source: Science

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