Science Studies Meet Climate Change – University of Copenhagen

Science Studies Meet Climate Change: A Rendezvous with Consequences?

Climate change has provoked an intense and polemic discussion as to the role of science in interpreting and/or distorting the signs of nature. However, this polemic is primarily going on between diverging schools of the natural sciences. Traditional terms and emblems of the sociology of scientific knowledge, such as ‘interests’, ‘conformity’, loyalty strides, authority decisions, and politics, abound in these polemics – but, by and large, the social sciences have been remarkably silent in these epochal discussions with implications for the conduct of world life. In some notable instances, important contributions have emerged from within the field of science studies; however, caught in its own internal dynamics, these contributions have not always reached a broader social science, let alone public, audience.

This workshop is an attempt to explore what social science writ large, but especially science studies, can contribute in diagnosing and counteracting the alarming signs of our contemporary climate. We have selected some of the most renowned social science scholars, all at the forefront of current research in science studies, in order to provoke them to contribute to our cognitive mapping of the immense complexities – natural and social – of current-day climate change. Drawing on their specific competences, we challenge them to evaluate the role of the social sciences in addressing the epistemic, political, developmental, and public challenges set by climate change. Symmetrically, we ask participants to address climate change as an opportunity for engaging reflexively with wider challenges of the social science in the new millennium. These include, but are not limited to, the following set of methodological and theoretical concerns:

  • Space, scale, ‘methodological nationalism’, and global interconnectedness
  • Time, social-natural temporalities, future visions, and long-term expectations
  • Changing nature-culture boundaries, including new ‘hybrid’ scientific practices

The status of materiality, natures, and nonhuman actors in social science research By pointing to this set of cross-cutting challenges in confronting climate change, we aim to position our studies centrally in emerging agendas of social-scientific theory and practice.

In December of 2009, the city of Copenhagen will host the United Nations COP-15 world summit on climate change, with the aim in view of having the world community submit to new collective rules in regulating the emission of greenhouse gases. Everybody acknowledges the grave challenges ahead, and the immense stakes for all of global social life. Our workshop – set in the geographic centre of attention of the world climate community – is an attempt to elicit, coordinate, and further advance the social scientific contribution to this pressing societal issue. As such, our overall ambition is to place the social sciences, and particularly science studies, in the gravity of attention of the world communities of scientists, regulators, and general publics, at this important historical junction.