Beyond consensus : reflections from a democratic perspective on the interaction between climate politics and science

J.P. Sluijs, van der, R. Est, van, M. Riphagen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    73 Citations (Scopus)


    The international debate about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and climate science in the aftermath of ‘Climategate’ gives cause for reflection. While the main emphasis lies on evaluating the procedures of the IPCC during the production of the fourth assessment report, too little attention has been paid to the political role of the IPCC. This article reflects on that political role by distinguishing three strategies to deal with scientific uncertainties in interfacing science and policy: 1) quantify uncertainty, 2) building scientific consensus, and 3) openness about ignorance. Each strategy has strengths and weaknesses. The way the international community has set up the IPCC and its procedures has basically been guided by the consensus approach. The current emphasis on restoring faith in the IPCC by improving its procedures reinforces this strategy. Guaranteeing the scientific reliability of IPCC reports is indeed essential but it does not address the main weakness of the consensus approach: the underexposure of both scientific and political dissent. As a result of this weakness climate science has become politicized over the past decades. Moreover, as we illustrate for the Netherlands, the consensus approach has hindered a full-blown political climate debate. The third policy strategy that aims for more openness and attention for diversity and deep uncertainty in knowledge and views may inspire more democratic ways to organize the interface between climate politics and science.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)409-415
    Number of pages7
    JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond consensus : reflections from a democratic perspective on the interaction between climate politics and science'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this