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Werner Krauss, Mike S. Schäfer and Hans von Storch

This special symposium grew out of a workshop held in Hamburg in 2011 (Krauss and von Storch 2012) and of a long-term interest in climate research as post-normal science. A decade earlier, Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch (1999) stated that the management of uncertainty and its extension into the political and social realm make climate science a case for post-normal science. Interpreting a survey among German and American climate scientists, they suggested that scientific policy advice is the result of both scientific knowledge and normative judgment.

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Data Moves

Taking Amazonian Climate Science Seriously

Antonia Walford

Drawing on fieldwork with researchers and technicians involved in a scientific project in the Brazilian rainforest, this article explores specific aspects of climate science in the Amazon. It suggests that taking science seriously anthropologically requires an investigation into the relation between endo-anthropology and exo-anthropology. This is done recursively by exploring a particular way in which what is 'inside' and what is 'outside' are achieved and negotiated in the scientific practice under study. Researchers and technicians 'do' some crucial distinctions with data, and the article points to the importance of the flux of data and the boundaries and sides that emerge from the control of that flux.

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Natures of Naturalism

Reaching Bedrock in Climate Science

Martin Skrydstrup

By exploring the multiple natures of a naturalist cosmology within the empirical terrain of climate science, this article examines what remains of the nature-culture divide in the Anthropocene. While scientists are familiar with critiques of scientific realism and work within a repertoire of multiple natures, they also maintain the boundary between the epistemic object (climate) and the material object (ice). While for science studies, the main object of science is socio-material practices, such as ice core drilling, for the scientists this drilling is more of a theatrical performance for the public and the funders. I argue that the tension between science and science studies can be circumnavigated by a double move: remaining faithful to the ways in which scientists draw modern boundaries, but also eliciting their reflexive ways of dealing with multiple natures from within a naturalist cosmology.

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Jerome Ravetz

In this essay I review my own involvement in climate science, and attempt to draw some useful lessons. I start with a critique of the theory of post-normal science (PNS). This is derived from the experience of the effective criticisms of PNS that were made on the blogosphere. I proceed to a critique of climate science itself, which might be described as the attempt to solve a post-normal problem by "normal science" methods. Since quality, in a variety of aspects, became crucial in the Climategate debates, I analyze that concept in the fraught context of a politicized, contested science. Such sciences have the seeds of tragedy for those who innocently engage with them believing that their task is simply to speak truth to power. Finally, out of my personal history I suggest that we keep in mind the personal investment of anyone holding a contested view, and respect their struggles to maintain integrity when their core beliefs are under attack. This motivates the fostering of non-violence in debates on policy science issues.

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Jobst Conrad

The article provides a general overview of social sciences perspectives to analyze and theorize climate research, climate discourse, and climate policy. First, referring to the basic paradigm of sociology, it points out the feasible scope and necessary methodology of environmental sociology as a social science concerning the analysis of physical nature. Second, it illustrates this epistemological conception by few examples, summarizing main results of corresponding climate-related social science investigations dealing with the development dynamics of climate research, the role of scientific (climate impact) assessments in politics, varying features and changes of climate discourses, climate policy formation, and knowledge diffusion from climate science. The receptivity of climate discourse and climate policy to the results of problem-oriented climate research is strongly shaped and limited by its multifarious character as well as by their own (internal) logics. The article shows that social sciences contribute their specific (conceptual) competences to problem-oriented research by addressing climate change and corresponding adaptation and mitigation strategies.

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Riding alone on the elevator

a class experiment in interdisciplinary education

Anna M. Frank, Rebecca Froese, Barbara C. Hof, Maike I. E. Scheffold, Felix Schreyer, Mathias Zeller and Simone Rödder

The ability to conduct interdisciplinary research is crucial to address complex real-world problems that require the collaboration of different scientific fields, with global warming being a case in point. To produce integrated climate-related knowledge, climate researchers should be trained early on to work across boundaries and gain an understanding of diverse disciplinary perspectives. This article argues for social breaching as a methodology to introduce students with a natural science background to the social sciences in the context of integrated climate sciences. The breach of a social norm presented here was to ask people whether the experimenter could ride on an elevator alone. We conclude that the approach is effective in letting students with a natural science background explore and experience the power of social reality, and is especially suitable for a small-sized introductory class.

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Jeroen P. van der Sluijs

Uncertainty complexity and dissent make climate change hard to tackle with normal scientific procedures. In a post-normal perspective the normal science task of "getting the facts right" is still regarded as necessary but no longer as fully feasible nor as sufficient to interface science and policy. It needs to be complemented with a task of exploring the relevance of deep uncertainty and ignorance that limit our ability to establish objective, reliable, and valid facts. This article explores the implications of this notion for the climate science policy interface. According to its political configuration the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) adopted a "speaking consensus to power" approach that sees uncertainty and dissent as a problematic lack of unequivocalness (multiple contradictory truths that need to be mediated into a consensus). This approach can be distinguished from two other interface strategies: the "speaking truth to power approach," seeing uncertainties as a temporary lack of perfection in the knowledge (truth with error bars) and the "working deliberatively within imperfections" approach, accepting uncertainty and scientific dissent as facts of life (irreducible ignorance) of which the policy relevance needs be explored explicitly. The article recommends more openness for dissent and explicit reflection on ignorance in IPCC process and reporting.

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Werner Krauss and Hans von Storch

Recent surveys show that the communication about climate change between science and the public is severely disturbed. In this article we discuss this problem in focusing on both regional climate services and other, local forms of knowledge. The authors suggest that climate science and its public services have to critically revise their own practices and to acknowledge other forms of knowledge about climate as constitutive. Based on approaches from geography and anthropology, the article first discusses the short history and "normal practices" of regional climate services and how they approach the public. Outlining the potentials and constraints of this concept, the article focuses on the friction, on "its openness to change as it rubs up against society" (Hulme 2007). The focus then shifts to local knowledge systems and how they deal with the challenges of a changing climate. In addition to the "extended peer review" as a new option for climate research in a post-normal setup, the authors discuss the possibility of an "extended knowledge basis," that is, the integration of different forms of climate knowledge with a special focus on regional populations.