The Social Psychology of Expertise: Case Studies in Research, Professional Domains, and Expert Roles

By Harald A. Mieg | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER
6

Case Study II:
Predicting Climate Change
1988–1997

We leave the field of finance for a while and turn to the problems of environmental protection. As in the case of financial markets, it would be useful to have reliable information on the future development of environmental systems: This is as true for global problems, such as climate change, as it is for defined local problems, such as contaminated sites. In contrast to financial markets, there is also substantial uncertainty about how to understand the present state of environmental systems.

This chapter presents a case study on expertise and experts involved in research on climate changes. It roughly comprises the 10 years between 1988 and 1997, commencing with the foundation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and ending with the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, through which the industrialized countries bound themselves to specified reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. The first section focuses on scientific expertise. We see the many ways that uncertainty comes into play and how scientists deal with it. The second section shows how some scientists try to take into account the social and local uncertainties by including citizens and local experts. We find that even when dealing with the global problem of climate change, a kind of lay expert seems required: the local system expert.


6.1 CLIMATE CHANGE AS A MATTER OF
SCIENTIFIC CONCERN

The Problem

In 1990 and 1996, the IPCC published two detailed reports on the scientific assessment of climate change. The IPCC was jointly founded by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment

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