Since Mike Hulme is Professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, he's had reason to think a lot about the politics of climate science. The British university was the place where climate change skeptics hacked scientists' emails and charged, inaccurately, that data was being hidden or fabricated. If you tend to believe in science and get your information from sources that also do, this story was just the usual wackdoodle background noise. This was a very big deal if you got your news from places like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal where Upton Sinclair's theorem holds sway:
Hulme has offered a thoughtful typology at the Australian online publication, The Conversation of six ways that climate change can be framed and their implications. I found this very much worth thinking about.
My emphasis added to pull out Hulme's bullet points.
As a person of leftist inclinations, I gravitate naturally to “manufactured risk” with a heavy dose of global injustice. I tend to think we humans shouldn't kick ourselves for striving to make life less brutish and short through our technological prowess, though we've done a damn poor job of ensuring that everyone gets their share of our improved well-being. I therefore conclude that we should use our very powerful brains to solve and mitigate the mess we're making of the planet, and spread the benefits more fairly. It's hard for me to take market failure seriously; tinkering at the edges of a rapacious capitalism isn't likely to help much. This perspective seems however to be the best our current political systems can accommodate; since I'm sure the dangers are serious, I'll take what I can get and push for more.
But I know mine is not the only way to look at climate change -- the overconsumption paradigm places the human animal in our rightful place, as a bumptious burden the rest of planet's life forms. The mostly natural frame seems too passive to me -- but I can imagine smart well-balanced people who can adopt it without despair. The planetary “tipping points” frame would require me to pretend to understand half-understood data that I know I don't master; so it can scare me, but it's not something that makes sense for me to dwell within. If we are hitting a terrible tipping point, we'll know when we crash across it. Meanwhile, we need to do what we can within the other paradigms -- doing what we can makes us the good human animals we are.
Any reader want to play? Which of Hulme's frames do you use to think about climate change? Or do you use something else? Can you bear to think about it at all?