Roussos, Joe & Julie Jebeile | 2023
WIREs Climate Change
Climate science is expected to provide usable information to policy-makers, to support the resolution of climate change. The complex, multiply connected nature of climate change as a social problem is reviewed and contrasted with current modular and discipline-bounded approaches in climate science. We argue that climate science retains much of its initial “physics-first” orientation, and that it adheres to a problematic notion of objectivity as freedom from value judgments. Together, these undermine its ability to provide usable information.
We develop the notion of usability using work from the literature on adaptation, but our argument applies to all of climate science. We illustrate the tension between usability and the objective, physics-first orientation of climate science with an example about model development practices in climate science. For solutions, we draw on two frameworks for science which responds to societal challenges: post-normal science and mandated science.
We generate five recommendations for adapting the practice of climate science, to produce more usable information and thereby respond more directly to the social challenge of climate change. These are:
(1) integrated cross-disciplinarity,
(2) wider involvement of stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of a climate study,
(3) a new framing of the role of values in climate science,
(4) new approaches to uncertainty management, and (5) new approaches to uncertainty communication.