- Paperback: 428 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 4th Edition edition (May 25, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521727324
- ISBN-13: 978-0521727327
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity 4th Edition Edition
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"This is a very rare book. A scientific book about climate change, that deals both with the science, and our own personal response to this science. It does all this supremely well, and should be compulsory reading for both sceptics and advocates. However, it does so much more, it is a book of great modesty and humanity. It uses climate change to ask questions more broadly about our own beliefs, assumptions and prejudices, and how we make individual and collective decisions." - Chris Mottershead, Distinguished Advisor, BP p.l.c
"In this personal and deeply reflective book, a distinguished climate researcher shows why it may be both wrong and frustrating to keep asking what we can do for climate change. Tracing the many meanings of climate in culture, Hulme asks instead what climate change can do for us. Uncertainty and ambiguity emerge here as resources, because they force us to confront those things we really want-not safety in some distant, contested future but justice and self-understanding now. Without downplaying its seriousness, Hulme demotes climate change from ultimate threat to constant companion, whose murmurs unlock in us the instinct for justice and equality." - Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard University
"This book is a 'must read' for anyone interested in the relationship between science and society. As we know from other controversies over GM Crops and MMR, by the time science hits the headlines, and therefore the public consciousness, it's always about much more than the science. This book shines a fascinating light on this process by revealing how climate change has been transformed from a physical phenomenon, measurable and observable by scientists, into a social, cultural and political one.
Everyone must surely recognize Hulme's description of the way climate change has become a kind of Christmas tree onto which we all hang our personal favourite bauble and Hulme highlights the way the issue has been appropriated by so many different groups to promote their own causes. Believers in turning the clock forwards and using more advanced technology, and those who argue we should turn the clock back and live more simply can equally claim that climate change supports their case.
Over the past few years Hulme has bravely spoken out against what some have described as 'climate porn', the tendency of some sections of the scientific community and the media to present climate change in ever more catastrophic and apocalyptic terms. This book elaborates on Hulme's hostility to the language of 'imminent peril' and calls for a different discourse.
This book is so important because Mike Hulme cannot be dismissed as a skeptic yet he is calling for a radical change in the way we discuss climate change. Whether or not people agree with his conclusions - this book is a challenging, thought-provoking and radical way to kick start that discussion." - Fiona Fox, Director, Science Media Centre, London
"With empirical experience that includes seven years' leading the influential Tyndall Centre, Professor Hulme here argues that science alone is insufficient to face climate change. We also 'need to reveal the creative psychological, spiritual and ethical work that climate change can do and is doing for us.' It is the very 'intractability of climate change', its sociological status as a 'wicked' problematique, that requires us to reappraise the 'myths' or foundational belief systems in which the science unfolds. That returns Hulme to the bottom line question: 'What is the human project ultimately about?' and herein resides this book's distinctive importance." - Alastair McIntosh, author of Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition, and Visiting Professor of Human Ecology at the Department of Geography and Sociology, University of Strathclyde
"A much needed re-examination of the idea of climate change from a vantage point that takes its cultural coordinates as seriously as its physical properties. Through the twin lenses of scientific scrutiny and rhetorical analysis, Mike Hulme helps us to see just why we disagree about climate change and what we can do about it. With wisdom, wit and winsome writing, he shows us that debates about climate change turn out to be disputes about ourselves - our hopes, our fears, our aspirations, our identity. Hindsight, insight and foresight combine to make this book a rare treat." - David N. Livingstone, Professor of Historical Geography, Queen's University, Belfast
"In a crowded and noisy world of climate change publications, this will stand tall. Mike Hulme speaks with the calm yet authoritative voice of the integrationist. He sees climate change as both a scientific and a moral issue, challenging our presumed right to be 'human' to our offspring and to the pulsating web of life that sustains habitability for all living beings. As a peculiar species we have the power do create intolerable conditions for the majority of our descendents. Yet we also have the scientific knowledge, the economic strength, and the political capacity to change direction and put a stop to avoidable calamity. This readable book provides us with the necessary argument and strategy to follow the latter course." - Tim O'Riordan, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
"Hulme articulates quite complex arguments in a remarkably clear and effective manner. He not only covers a lot of ground, but by avoiding an overly compartmentalized approach he achieves a great deal of connectivity throughout the book. For those who are regularly immersed in the social sciences literature on climate change, the content itself may not hold many surprises. But Hulme's approach makes these arguments accessible and meaningful for a wider audience, and this tome could also serve as a great teaching text. Through the book, Hulme makes important contributions to continued understanding of environmental, cultural, political and physical - eminently interdisciplinary - aspects of climate change. As more citizens, students, scientists and policy players read it, Why We Disagree About Climate Change is very likely to be an important and 'discernible influence' on the ways we think about and discuss global change, and how we plan to engage with it." - Nature Reports: Climate Change
"In the crowded and noisy world of climate-change publications, this book will stand out." - The Economist
"This book is particularly useful in identifying the linkages between different perspectives on climate change, value systems, and beliefs about the way things should and do work.... This is not a book that advocates or even facilitates a course of action to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Rather, it encourages reflection, not only about the complexity of the issue but also about how we want to respond to the challenge that climate change poses to our social as well as ecological systems." - PsycCRITIQUES
"A distinctive and courageous book." - The Times Higher Education Supplement
"A climatologist who has devoted some serious time to studying history and social studies of science, Hulme aims to offer a broader perspective on the debates that arise once the initial question of the reality of human-caused global warming has been settled. His book is valuable for its diagnosis of the many different levels at which disagreement can arise and the variety of political stances and value judgments that can incline people to divergent conclusions about what is likely to happen and what might be done." - Science Magazine
Mike Hulme provides a unique insider's account of climate change and the diverse ways in which it is understood. He uses different standpoints from science, economics, faith, psychology, communication, sociology, politics and development to explain why we disagree about this important phenomenon.
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Top Customer Reviews
Hulme explores numerous areas of disagreement and organizes his chapters around specific areas. He begins with three mostly (though not entirely) science-oriented sources of disagreement, which involve our conceptualization of climates and climate change, the development of scientific thought regarding climate change, and what science can and cannot tell us. From there, he moves onto disagreements regarding economics, religion, fears, communication strategies, development, and government action. The book ends with a provocative chapter about rethinking climate change.
My own nerdy biases initially drew me into the first chapters, especially the history of scientific thought regarding climate change. Hulme points out that scientific acceptance of the notion that climates change is relatively recent, dating only to the 19th century. Widespread scientific acceptance of the theory of anthropogenic climate change on human time scales is newer still. Although components of the theory, such as the greenhouse effect, were developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it wasn't until the last quarter of the century that broad elements of the scientific began to broadly accept anthropogenic global warming.
However, accepting the likelihood of anthropogenic global warming is only a scientific preliminary. For effective public policy, we need to know much more, including how strong the link between human activities and climate change is, when and how fast systemic changes are likely to occur, how the effects will be distributed, and what the possibilities are for catastrophic changes. As we move into these important areas, the scientific disagreements become larger, and the opportunities for other sources of disagreement to influence scientific discourse also grow.
At a first reading, I was initially disappointed with most of the follow-on, non-scientific "disagreement" chapters. The chapters work well enough in listing and explaining many ways that people can disagree about things. However, they do not explain which disagreements really matter and whether there are fundamental and connecting sources to the disagreements. There are interesting arguments and insights along the way, but much of the material reads like a middle-of-the-road undergraduate term paper--"it could be this (source A), it could be that (source B)," and so on.
Different readers will nonetheless appreciate different things in these chapters. As an economist, I enjoyed an outsider's take on my profession's disagreements. The discussion of development challenges was also very good, especially in reminding us of how many times smart, careful, and concerned people from Malthus to the Club of Rome have predicted doom only to discover that humans have innovated, adapted, and prospered within the then-existing environmental constraints.
The deeper rationale behind these chapters, though, became clearer after reading the final chapter. A central point of that chapter and ultimately of the book is that climate change is here, and the notion of climate change can't be undone. Climate has changed and will change, and humans, to some extent, are affecting this change. Once we accept this, we cannot "unknow" anthropogenic climate change.
Another crucial point in the chapter is that we are unlikely to "solve" the climate change "problem" in any conventional sense in our lifetimes. "Solving a problem" implies meeting a particular objective; in the case, of climate change, what would that be? Suppose that science could give us the magic key to setting the planet's climate--where would we set it? Do we want a pre-industrial climate, a 20th century climate, something warmer, something cooler. Also, (and this is the part where the non-science chapters come in) which objectives do we adopt?
Hulme instead advocates for the more sensible position of living with climate change. To be clear, he does not mean this in a fatalistic sense or as a call for a "do nothing approach." Hulme does mean that we must accept that human activities affect the global climate and that those activities have consequences that impede other objectives. He reminds us that our behavior and policy setting should focus on those objectives rather than the fact of climate change.
Mike Hulme is a renowned climate scientist with a 30 year experience in the field who works at the University of East Anglia, and even was Director at the now famous CRU (though he was not involved in the Climategate scandal). Considering his honest view on this subject and his openness in the discussion of such contentious issue, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, right at the beginning of the book Mr. Hulme makes explicit his position regarding climate change: he believes the risks posed by climate change are tangible and serious, and require human intervention and management, and also that the global climate is influenced by an array of human activities. However, he does not believe that the way the UN FCCC and the Kyoto protocol are neither the only nor the most appropriate way to attack this problem. Also he "feels uncomfortable that climate change is widely reported through the language of catastrophe and imminent peril, as `the greatest problem facing humanity', which seeks to trump all others."
Mr. Hulme presents quite an innovative and insightful approach to the climate change discussion, by looking at it as a social phenomenon, as an "idea" interpreted differently by different cultures and by our different sets of believes, values, and concerns, and therefore, what it means to different people in different places. He explores the different dimensions of this "idea" in several political, economical, cultural and ethical contexts, and by identifying the different meanings of climate change he argues we can better understand why we disagree about climate change. Some of these meanings include climate change as a justification to fight globalization, as a desire to return to simpler times, while for others is a great opportunity to develop to technologies that will solve the problem, the desire of pride and control. He summarizes these views to what he calls four myths: Eden, Apocalypses, Babel, and Jubilee. Simply brilliant! He also looks at climate change as a wicked problem, and presents a very insightful analysis of the possibilities of elegant and clumsy solutions.
Despite the strong sociological and philosophical discourse, Mr. Hulme makes a very strong case for his view of the problem, and his main argument has been confirmed by two recent events, Climategate and the failure of the Copenhagen meeting. On a second thought, I think this book is also recommended for hard-die global warming advocates, so they can begin to understand why their cause is beginning to erode, and it is not because the science is a hoax, as the deniers camp has declared recently in light of Climategate.
For more on Hulme's approach to climate change as a wicked problem read Clumsy Solutions for a Complex World: Governance, Politics and Plural Perceptions (Global Issues), which tackles other wicked problems of social nature. Academic, but a must read!
PS: Some critics have said that Hulme's ideas are naive. Well, if you are in doubt, read the Hartwell Paper published in May 2010 (available for free in pdf format in the web, just google). In this publication Hulme and another 13 academics and energy advocates argued that the Kyoto Protocol has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases in fifteen years, and therefore, after the Copenhagen fiasco, Kyoto has crashed. They argued that this failure opens an opportunity to set climate policy free from Kyoto and they propose a controversial and piecemeal approach to decarbonization of the global economy which will be more pluralistic and much more effective than the policies based on Kyoto. The Hartwell paper strategic approach is partially based on Holme's book regarding wicked problems and clumsy solutions, as well as taken proper consideration of the different views and interpretations of climate change around the world. There is now one more reason to read Why We Disagree About Climate Change. Do not miss it.
It is an excellent analysis of the whole field.
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