Epidemic communities : climate change, emerging disease and the governance of science
Suk, Jonathan Evan
Scientific knowledge is often relied upon for informing crucial societal decisions. Where this knowledge is uncertain, and/or where these decision are made amidst a contexted political landscape, science tends to become the focus of intense scrutiny, as has been evident throughout the history of climate change politics. One consequence is that instead of "scientising" decision-making, science itself becomes more explicitly politicised. This thesis argues that in order to contribute to contemporary debates about the governance of science, it is essential to move beyond the question of whether or not policy-relevant scientific knowledge is credibly and to examine how scientific knowledge is made to be credible. Drawing upon the concept of co-production and other insights from Science & Technology Studies (STS), this thesis presents a detailed examination of how research into the health impacts of climate change (infectious diseases especially) gradually gained in prominence in both public health and climate change circles. Particular analytical attention is paid to an epistemic community of climate change and health (CCH) researchers, following the ways in which they interacted with global political entities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). Based upon in-depth interviews with actors intimately involved in CCH research, this thesis documents how the rise of CCH research influenced and was influenced by particular scientific and political contexts related to the governance of climate change as well as emerging infectious disease. The examination of a longstanding controversy surrounding CCH research reveals many socio-economic and political assumptions embedded in it, further demonstrating its contingency. However, despite that CCH research is both uncertain and contested, actors in the political world often need to know what the state-of-the-art of the field is. To examine the implications of this, the CCH controversy as treated by the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) is explored. Although IPCC follows a complicated set of procedures aimed at ensuring scientific and political legitimacy, this thesis demonstrates that values and normative judgements are important components of scientific assessments, helping to co-construct particular science-policy orderings at the expense of alternative ones. Amidst ongoing debates about how to shore-up the credibility of climate change science and politics, this thesis argues that the way in which IPCC assessments are currently performed, as well as their tendency to present findings as "consensus", may undermine their political and scientific credibility.