Since I’ve been writing about social science papers recently, there are a couple of others I wanted to mention. I discovered that James has already covered one, so I don’t need to say more. The other is a paper called Five dimensions of climate science reductionism by Jonathan Rigg & Lisa Reyes Mason.
The basic premise is well highlighted by the abstract
The tendency of modern science to reduce complex phenomena into their component parts has many advantages for advancing knowledge. However, such reductionism in climate science is also a problem because it narrows the evidence base, limiting visions of possible futures and the ways they might be achieved.
The problem is that
it is the predictive natural sciences (earth, environmental, meteorological, atmospheric sciences), not the critical and interpretative social sciences and humanities, that set the terms of the climate change debate, leading to disciplinary reductionism.
Participatory climate science reductionism is about excluding the non-expert.
It’s actually quite hard to know where to start with this. The basic issue seems to be that the natural sciences dominate the climate change debate and that the processes used are about excuding the non-expert. There may be some truth to the non-expert being excluded, but it’s not what climate science is about.
The key point, in my view, is that any research is about understanding a system. In the case of the physical sciences, it is often about trying to understand how some physical systems evolves and how it might respond to changes. Various other factors may influence what we might choose to research, and – in some cases – how we conduct research, but they shouldn’t influence what we conclude about the system from that research.
However, our interpretation of the significance of some research is something that should not be determined by the researchers alone. This is where, in my view, others should get involved so as to inform how our societal factors might influence how we might respond to the available information.
I don’t think we should be expecting scientists to develop a different science, characterized by deep interdisciplinarity [and] meaningful engagement of diverse publics, but I do think that the diverse publics should be engaged when it comes to considering the significance of some research.
My general view is that this paper over-states the significance of climate science in the public climate change debate, but even if it is dominating and other factors are being excluded, the solution would seem to be for others to step up and present this information, rather than suggesting that a different climate science is needed to identify, inform and advance new solutions to climate change that address people’s lived experience and are tailored to local context, so they are more likely to be positively received and, therefore, to succeed.
I do think that these other factors are important. I just do not think their inclusion requires developing a different climate science; it requires those who recognise their importance doing a better job of highlighting this.