SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS, CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE POLITICS OF FUEL CHOICE: THE LIMITS OF SCIENTIFIC ADVICE
Submitted to Energy Policy in August 1995 and based on research funded by the British Economic and Social Research Council under its Global Environmental Change initiative. It reports findings of the project 'The formulation and impact of scientific advice on climate change' and is related to an earlier paper publ;ished in Energy and Environment (4,4) in late 1993.*
Dr Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen
School of Geography and Earth Resources
University of Hull
formerly Science Policy Research Unit
University of Sussex
BN1 9RH, UK
Tel: 01428 465385
Fax: 01482 466540
The 'scientific consensus' which influenced the Framework Convention on Climate Change was carefully drafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) between 1988 and 1992 and has been updated since. Yet inspite of it, there have been divergent national responses and controversy about what, if anything, can or should be done about greenhouse gas emissions, continues. The ability of governments to regulate for the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases appears to be declining while the rhetoric of action, and calls for more research to underpin policy, grow more elaborate. An explanation for this apparent paradox is proposed which includes the question of whether the nature of the scientific advice as sought and given bears some responsibility for the confusing global policy response. The institutional and personality factors in the formation of IPCC advice are explored, as is the policy model upon which advice was given. It is concluded that this model is intrinsically unable to generate decisive environmental policy, but rather invited the institutions of the natural sciences and macro-economics to endow their research agendas with claims to policy relevance through the promise of future objective 'findings'. Yet is has been concluded that the Climate Change Convention was the outcome not of science advising 'rational' policy-makers, but of a complex process of global and national bargaining in which energy institutions dominated but research played an active if minor role providing 'ammunition' for all parties. In the much wider struggle over access to strategic resources, capital, income and power in both senses of the word, the global research lobby successfully protected its own interests. This involved 'government science' taking the lead and adopting an increasingly 'neutral' position so that scientific advice was sought by all the contending parties. Whether the global stabilisation of anthropogenic emissions will be achieved remains to be seen; it is unlikely to depend on more natural scientific knowledge becoming available but on the capacity of many societies changing fundamentally together without political disasters taking place. Does history suggest that this is likely?
Believing in climate change - THREATS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Introduction: Challenges to the Energy System
Climate change research presents an enormous
challenge to the world scientific community.
(Sir John Houghton 1991)
The practical and effective implementation of Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), signed in 1992 and ratified by almost all countries, is by no means assured. The first meeting of the Contracting Parties took place in Berlin in early 1995 and a protocol to make the Convention more adequate is being prepared. National plans and reports are being written and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently completed its second report. This largely confirm earliers predictions and uncertainties, and offers much 'objective scientific and technical advice', as well as value free advice. IPCC has grown to include many social sciences and remains active in the sidelines. Only observation, not theory, is likely to tell how effective such advice is 'on the ground' in transforming national public policies. These are here understood as regulatory interventions to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, especially coal.
The 1992 Convention is generally considered unambitious from the environmentalist perspective (Andresen and Wettestad 1991). Reluctance to believe the frightening images of the global hothouse, submerged islands and devastating storms scientists allegedly predicted during the late 1980s is growing. Close observers of the Convention have called it 'the political equivalent of a blank check'. (GECR, 1993) It is argued here that this check in not entirely blank, but pays many actors off handsomely. It commits the Parties to an enormous amount of data collection, research, planning and strategic thinking, including taking note of the IPCC and hence the global research enterprise. The final role of this Panel, which was set up in 1988 under the joint sponsorship of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Convention remains to be decided. The policy recommendations made by the IPCC so far can be summarised as constituting serious challenges to the world's energy supply and use systems, represented by powerful international and national vested interests and lobbies. Their response to, and involvement in, these challenges is therefore crucial in an analysis of global warming policy formation and the associated politics.
The inability of the energy system to respond. The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Helga Steeg, warned in 1990 that 'for the whole world economy to achieve CO2 stabilisation within two decades, would require massive and probably impossible efforts'. (Commission for the European Communities, 1990). In 1992, Anthony Churchill from the World Bank argued that 'the world's use and production of energy can only be changed marginally in the next thirty years' with reference to weak administrative and institutional structures. (WEC, 1993. p.20) In 1993, the INC could not agree on the proposed 'joint implementation' strategy which would allow companies to reduce C02 as cheaply as possible anywhere in the world, i.e. transfer technology. A German attempt to link a protocol on forests to the FCCC had failed and the European Community's (EC) attempt to introduce a carbon/energy tax was faltering as the goal of reaching stabilisation by the year 2000 was relaxed.
The attempt of the Clinton administration to introduce an energy content tax in the USA had failed and the ability of the UK to ratify the FCCC is being questioned in the face of rising C02 emissions. There are serious doubts that Germany will be unable to deliver the 20-30% C02 reduction it promised in the late 1980s. The question of China and India reducing their quickly growing emissions hardly bears thinking about. The pressure on scientists to be less 'certain' and confident about the dangerous impact of ghg emissions is now enormous, very much in contrast to the situation in the late 1980s. Why this change? Did not science itself invite this pressure?
The role of science
How much did science really promise? Did the institutions of science create these 'threats' or did they merely use them opportunistically? Did environmentalists, the media and some politicians misinterpret science for their own reasons, disseminating an exaggerated threat successfully for almost a decade? By political analysis I hope to show that science was not misinterpreted, but used in political battles in which it participated as a self-interested actor. These battles made use of scientific 'predictions' and 'consensus' which could not but be ambiguous serving, in the end, all masters but scientific research first of all. This is a conclusion political scientists would expect, but which scientists deeply resent. Most worried, however, should be the policy-maker and society, for the policy implications are not insubstantial.
The impact of the 'epistemic community' (Haas 1990) concerned with climate change is explored by having a closer look first at the concepts of 'scientific consensus and advice' and then summarising their roles in the FCCC in relation to energy policy implications. Explanations of the role of scientific institutions are derived by tracing the origin of the idea of such a treaty in the 'independent' scientific community and exploring the politics through which the IPCC was established.
The role and tasks of this Panel are then briefly described to explore the motives and capacities of the international scientific community to contribute to effective energy policy and it is asked why the issue was taken up by the world political system in the mid 1980s, only to be returned to where it came from in the early 1990s, to the research institutions of the Western world.
The explanation which is offered here, in bare outline, relates the major 'product' of global warming politics 1985-1992, the Framework Convention, to two major factors which are largely independent of the scientific advice: changes in global energy politics, especially changes in the world price of oil during the 1970s and 1980s and energy demand in developed countries, as well as changes in international relations. In the 1990s recession and the new world disorder changed the priorities of governments and weakened their political capacity to deal with the future.
These factors largely determined how the available scientific evidence was interpreted and used in the world of politics and made global warming policy very much a hostage to energy politics. They prevented the policy convergence so essential for a more ambitious outcome. By implication, the dependent and ambivalent role of science is exposed, as well as the lack of wisdom, it is hoped, of those who fund basic science for reasons of policy relevance and choose to base policy on scientific consensus.
THE NATURE OF SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS: SERVING POLICY NOT
Uncertainty is an invitation to politics and to research. Policy prefers certainty. Research scientists are therefore put into a difficult position the very moment they accept the task of giving policy advice as well as scientific assessments of the state of knowledge. Science responded with ambiguity. By considering the personalities in charge of communicating scientific and policy advice, it can be shown that this tension was experienced, but also that their loyalty remained with the production of more knowledge rather than with its application. Tension between these two positions is relieved by the firm belief that more knowledge will generate better, i.e. more rational, policy almost by definition. This belief underlies both the IPCC and the FCCC and probably explains the high value placed on consensus by those who also aim at policy impacts.
The idea that 'scientific' consensus was required from the IPCC could not be traced to its origin, but was probably adopted by the Panel itself. Such negotiated agreements among largely self-selected, if highly distinguished members, of a global lobby can be examined for their internal legitimacy and consistency (Lunde, 1991), or for their institutional origin and impact on policy-making in the 'real' world. The latter approach is adopted here.
Having achieved consensus among the scientists who were consulted was certainly a matter of pride by the Chairman of the IPCC Working Group One on Scientific Assessment. Sir John Houghton is reported to have said that
..none of the hundred or more present at the final meeting dissented from the final text.... a remarkable consensus...,
He added that consensus did not mean full agreement, that 'a few scientists feel either that the panel gave too little emphasis to the uncertainties or that it over-emphasised them'.Recent report from within the IPCC indicate that the Panel itself may replace the idea of issuing consensual statements with minority and majority reports. This of course increases the decision-making burden of government. The very desire of policy-makers and some of their advisors to demand and provide 'consensus' rather than simply advice, raises questions of motivation and power on both sides.
The explanation which is offered here, in bare outline, relates the major 'product' of global warming politics 1985-1992, the Framework Convention, to factors which are largely independent of scientific advice: changes in global energy politics, especially changes in the world price of oil during the 1970s and 1980s, and rapidly rising energy demand in developing countries, which is itself a threat to the commercial might of the developed, as well as changes in international relations. In the 1990s recession and the new world disorder changed the priorities of governments, Their political capacity to deal with the future weakened just as the need for doing so increased. The much praised 'market' would not solve political problems. Governments themselves needed arguments for 'intervention' into economies. These political factors, it is argued, largely determined how the available scientific evidence was interpreted and used in the world of politics. They made global warming policy very much a hostage to energy politics. They prevented the policy convergence so essential for a more ambitious outcome. By implication, the dependent and ambivalent role of science is exposed, as well as the lack of wisdom, it is hoped, of those who fund basic science for reasons of policy relevance and choose to base policy on scientific consensus.
A few quotations will illustrate the diplomacy and ambiguity of the scientific response. The Policy-makers Summary of the 1990 Science Report uses strong words, i.e. 'predicts with certainty', but adds that this is from models which are by no means reliable forecasters, but rather represent numerical experiments, as is explained in the full text. The term experiment, normally used in scientific papers, is not used. Rather it is stated that:
we predict...(that under a given emission scenario) a rate of increase of global mean temperature during the next century of about 0.3 degree C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2 to 0.5 oC per decade...this will result in a likely increase in global mean temperature of about 1oC above the present value by 2025. (Houghton 1990)
Certainty created in one phase 'will' is taken away in another, 'likely', surely doing some violence to logic if not grammar.
In the same highly influential document it is also claimed that the IPCC has 'calculated with confidence' that an immediate reduction of 60 per cent of emissions of ghg would have to take place if the stabilisation of concentrations were to be the goal. That this should be the gaol is not claimed anywhere in either Report or Summary. However, the formulation allowed an interpretation, often repeated by environmentalists and the promoters of advanced energy technologies, that the IPCC had called for the immediate reduction of emissions by 60% in order to prevent global warming.
The chairman of the whole Panel, Professor Bert Bolin came fairly close to making such a claim in 1992, i.e. when addressing the sixth session of the INC in Geneva in December 1992, claiming that:
...the IPCC assessments show unequivocally that the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will require major reductions of the anthropogenic emission of these gases.(Bolin 1992)
He did not say stabilisation at which level or when.
By 1993, when addressing a rather different audience, Sir John Houghton, the chairman of the working group on scientific assessment, discarded to idea of certainty altogether, claiming that
...IPCC publications explain the degree of scientific uncertainty regarding future climate change. Research therefore needs urgently to be undertaken in order to reduce scientific uncertainty', (WEC, 1993,p.47)
Bert Bolin supported this general line:
....As long as we do not know the natural carbon cycle adequately the prediction of atmospheric concentrations due to future emissions remains uncertain (WEC, 1993,p.43)
Yet by calling for more research to aid policy, science did not want to fail policy now. In the same publication Sir John also added his support (and that of the IPCC?) to the pleas of the World Energy Council's for an end to subsidies for energy globally' and government intervention in setting a framework in which energy prices in developed countries would rise, and Bert Bolin called for increased energy efficiency, the development of new energy sources, and the spending of a part of the annual increase in global GNP to mitigate climate change. His faith appeared to have moved from the natural sciences to 'key economists' as the provider of solutions. The issue of what type of advice the IPCC should give in future is dealt with bellow.
Scientists are excellent communicators of their cause. Like all lobbies, they can speak with more than one voice, as illustrated by the statement of two British climatologists who attended the 1985 Villach Conference and contributed to IPCC and had therefore added their voice to calls for action. In 1987, however, when addressing the science policy community, they argued that
the range of scientific uncertainty is currently so large that neither 'do nothing' nor 'prevent emissions' can be excluded from consideration and pleaded that it was imperative to extend full support to a two-pronged research effort that will narrow the image of scientific uncertainty regarding the greenhouse effect, while identifying and defining ways in which socio-economic and environmental systems are likely to be affected. (Warrick and Jones, 1988, pp 48-62)
The follows the promise which policy needs to assess from its own perspective, namely that 'as such understanding is gained, the directions for effective policies will begin to crystallise'. Similar statements are still being made and will continue to be made until policy-maker cease using scientific uncertainty at the 'cutting edge' of research as strategy for delaying uncomfortable or unpopular decisions.
No international research organisation was discovered which has challenged the IPCC consensus, but at the national level, where the real battles for research money allocations and energy policy responses do take place, such challenges have been frequent and are increasing. This should not surprise for the ties of loyalty and self-interest in the scientific community are strong, as is the genuine desire of individual scientists to participate in policy-making to save the planet.
Scientific consensus is surely an unfortunate term for what the IPCC actually created in its 'Policy-Makers Summaries' and for the kind of advice IPCC leaders give to governments. As its more sophisticated participants knew it was, IPCC consensus is a negotiated agreement on phrases and concepts used by scientific leaders and research managers to influence governments. This includes summaries of the state of scientific knowledge for non-scientists and proposals, if not advocacy, of what governments (and others) might do in response. As is often pointed out, controversy is part and parcel of science. Some controversies cannot be resolved because of 'paradigmatic discrepancies', most are part of the process of research. Science 'can be defined as a process of continued controversy over, say, the adequacy of experiments, data and theories'(Rüdig,1993). Global warming science, by researching at the very frontier of knowledge, information technology and measurement necessarily abounds with uncertainties which are likely to grow rather than decline. Controversy is normal and necessary.
Scientific consensus, therefore, may be little more that agreement on what is not known. This is a poor basis for policy which bases itself on 'sound' science or scientific evidence. The policy messages which the IPCC extracted from scientific knoweldge for the world of politics are therefore best considered the 'approved' opinions of a small number of influential English speaking individuals from a small number of countries who shared the belief (or at least felt it unwise to contradict) the prevailing paradigm of scientific and economic rationalism. They spoke in the name of global scientific authority tolerated by an increasingly dependent scientific community upon whose good will the IPCC effort ultimately depends.
As voices of the global research enterprise, the IPCC managers could not but propose ambiguous policies which would be research intensive. Its language was symbolic and rich in ambiguity, ancient diplomatic tools that permit the construction of different perceptions and hence policies. By this device, the scientific community handed the problem, via the IPCC, back to governments subject to further expert advice. It is appropriate, therefore, to ask how this was achieved by the FCCC.
THE CLIMATE CONVENTION AND THE POLITICS OF ENERGY
The Framework Convention on Climate Convention primarily calls for more knowledge to be created so that rational decisions may be made, thus codifying the need for a vast amount of knowledge and professional expertise to serve decision-making in future. The perceived need for more scientific and technical information can be analysed with reference to the goals and instruments of the Convention. (INC 1992) Its very objective remains open to challenge by new findings. The objective of the treaty is the:
stabilisation greenhouse gas concentrations...at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food supply is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
A tall order indeed.
Science and Expertise in the Climate Convention
The treaty does not define climate change or the important term 'dangerous'. It does state that current levels of ghg are a matter of serious concern. Instead, two 'subsidiary bodies' are to be set up by the Parties of the Convention in order to provide 'scientific-technical' information. The precise link between the IPCC and these bodies is not yet clear, but is undoubtedly going to be strong. Information will be needed on four subject:
* Stabilisation of concentrations
* Emission stabilisation
* Ecological limits or levels of tolerance
* Emission inventories and reduction programmes
A fifth major concern expressed in the treaty text, the equitable distribution of costs and benefits, is not provided with an advisory body, though the opportunity for setting up new bodies is available.
Stabilisation of Concentrations
If greenhouse gases continue to be emitted at current rates, and mankind grows in wealth and numbers as some predict (or guess), there will be a doubling of current CO2 concentrations during the next century unless nature responds in ways we do not yet understand, i.e. until the carbon cycle and its dependence on climate are known.
Stabilising current concentrations is much more ambitious than stabilising current emissions and would require reductions, according to the IPCC, of up to 60 per cent of present emissions.
The goal of stabilisation therefore is ambitious only if further increases in concentration are to be prevented. However, current levels are not as assessed as dangerous in the Treaty, although environmentalists have misinterpreted IPCC as having made such a judgement and there is a worry about what might be in 'the pipeline'. Another problem if and how to combine the various gases in order to obtain a single index, the global warming potential, which policy-makers would like but science cannot define.
Hence before there can be any globally binding action, governments will have to agree on what constitutes 'dangerous interference' and that this interference is man-made. This decision can only be made with the help of an enormous amount of natural scientific evidence and socio-economic data, much of which must remain forever hypothetical and is subject to political selection.
The costs of stabilisation at any level would vary considerably between countries, but remains highly uncertain and hence an attraction to economics research. It is not understood how emissions translate into concentrations and how changes in concentrations translate into 'real' temperatures on the ground and eventually climatic changes. Do we need to know all this to reduce emissions? Policy-makers certainly would if they wanted to act 'rationally' in the sense of reducing emission most effectively at the least cost consistent with the most acceptable amount of damage globally !
Emission Stabilisation and Reduction
Emissions are to be stabilised in future, hopefully by the year 2000, but the Convention does not specify what is to happen afterwards. These emissions are estimated by the IPCC to amount to between 7 and 8.8 gigatonnes per annum, with 6 +/- 0.5 gt derived from fossil fuel combustion and 1.6 +/- 1 gt from landuse changes, a number so uncertain and small that some scientists believe that it could be ignored. A vast amount of research is taking place to make these numbers more robust.
OECD countries and the former Eastern bloc have agreed under the Convention to take action by the year 2000:
with the aim of returning individually or jointly to
their 1990 levels of these anthropogenic emissions.
This compares with the 20 per cent reduction target proposed in Toronto in 1988 or the 60 per cent many environmentalists claim are needed on the basis of IPCC advice.
The climate treaty itself has little to say about the levels at which concentrations are to be stabilised, but the surrounding discussions indicate that these ought to be decided scientifically, i.e. on the basis of 'ecological limits' or tolerance levels similar to that of critical loads for limiting acid deposition, or carrying capacity for the exploitation of plants. Such limits can be used for deciding landuse as well as dose and (acceptable) response relationships between pollutants received, here the warming experienced, and the target to be protected.
Ecological limits can be derived from 'impact studies' as well as the study of past climates, both major research subject for the biological/ecological/ geological sciences. This too would involve a vast amount of additional research.
Emission Inventories and Reduction Programmes
Governments are required to make national inventories of all their greenhouse gases emissions (other than CFCs controlled under the Montreal Protocol) using comparable methodologies. This information concerning implementation must communicated to the Conference of the Parties. The methodologies are currently being defined by the IPCC with help from OECD/IEA. This obligation too is very research intensive and requires much national expertise, tapping into work done by one of the IPCC working groups. Countries shall also:
formulate, implement, publish and regularly update national and, where appropriate, regional programmes containing measures to mitigate climate change by addressing anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, and measures to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change; and promote and cooperate in the development, application and diffusion, including transfer, of technologies, practices and processes that control, reduce or prevent anthropogenic emissions....
The relevant sectors specifically referred are energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management. Other paragraphs of the same article mention sustainable management and coastal zone management, water resources and agriculture, impact assessment and research collaboration, even training and education. An enormous reporting task is indicated, but its use, and usefulness, remain undefined.
These obligations will be highly enabling for national governments, provided they have the knowledge, wish and resources to gather the information and formulate appropriate programmes. There is no mention of implementation; this remains a national affair.
The Subsidiary Bodies
The Convention goes to considerable length to ensure that the parties will be provided with abundant technical advice. Two subsidiary bodies will be set up, one to give 'scientific and technological advice' and the other to assist the Parties with the implementation of the Convention. This former group would provide the kind of knowledge IPCC's WGs have been gathering and assessing since 1988, the latter is to consist of 'experts on matters relating to climate change' and would involve mainly national experts applying agreed methodologies. The first body is to provide the Conference of the Parties with timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters relating to the Convention. Its functions and terms of reference may be further elaborated in future, but the range of expertise is defined as 'scientific'. Its duties remains firmly linked to the natural and technical sciences, but will also include the identification of innovative and efficient technologies. The implementation experts of the second subsidiary body will not, it seems, be asked to advise on implementation as such, but rather on its measurement. They shall:
assess the overall aggregate effect of the steps taken by the parties in the light of
the latest scientific assessments concerning climate change.
A main task of this body will be to help countries with their inventories of emissions and sinks, a rather fundamental inquiry in the nature of economic activities under national jurisdictions which is already under way. This knowledge will become available to the parties of the FCCC.
Energy Politics and the FCCC
Since energy interests could use 'the environment' and especially the ability of specific fuels and technologies to reduce C02 emissions both in commercial competition and in requesting subsidies or regulatory protection, lobbying by vested energy interests became a part of global warming politics, with effects primarily at the national level. Direct impacts on the negotations of the FCCC were the Bush Administration's refusal to accept stronger commitment largely because it wanted to protect oil and coal interests, as well as its own ideologically position. Defacto, the USA acted as a defender of fossil fuels, its own low energy prices, as well as more research and third world interests. This was justified with reference to scientific uncertainties, the absence of scientific consensus and the warnings of economists about the as yet unknown costs of hasty action.
The USA, like many other countries, did not stand to gain immediately from emission reduction but would have faced formidable social and economic problems. In fact, any political elite committed to economic growth with the help of cheaper energy, (USA, UK, developing countries) had strong reasons to doubt the need for rapid action in reducing ghg emissions at high cost. The 'activist' countries, on the other hand, had energy policy interests which converged immediately with emission reduction. They either wanted to strengthen their nuclear industries or research ambitions (Germany, EC), or replace domestic coal in the national fuel mix (e.g. the 'dash for gas' in the UK and now also in the USA), or maintain their export earnings from gas or nuclear electricity (Norway, France). Countries which are primarily importers of fossil fuel wanted to encourage declining domestic demand (West Germany) with the help of higher energy prices, or wanted to stimulate energy efficiency through higher energy prices, if only to promote advanced energy technologies into which they had already made or wanted to make heavy investments. Others again would have to cope with difficult 'goal conflicts', e.g. Australia. Table 1 hints at facts behind the impact of the global fuel and energy technology competition.
Carbon Dioxide Emission Factor Estimates for Different Fuels*
natural gas 15
(nuclear) 0 (excl. construction, transport
* ignoring efficiency of conversion or release of gas during transmission. The thermal efficiency of coal-fired plant has increased from 25% to 38% since 1950s; that of combined cycle gas plant is approaching 50%, while gas burned directly has of course a much higher efficiency.
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 1991
A 'best case' scenario for CO2 emission in electricity generation in the UK, for example, would only not require low growth in the demand for energy, but also the accelerated replacement of fossil fuel plants, the build up of renewable energy sources, the combined use and expansion of nuclear power, all new power plants being combined cycle gas plants, with the option for 2000 being entirely a mixture of gas and nuclear power.
The insistence of countries in favour of reduction or stabilisation scenarios (because they perceived positive technological and finical impacts from higher energy prices) is largely responsible for the more ambitions decisions in the Climate Convention. The reason for divergent responses to the environmental message was therefore less national selfishness (the term used by one of the 'fathers' of the IPCC process who must remain unidentified), but the fact that opportunities and risks which emission reduction offer are not at all shared equally between countries. Scientific uncertainties thus became the tools of energy politics.
The national institutions supporting the IPCC 'consensus' in favour of immediate action on the basis of self-interest came include those promoting renewable energy sources and technologies, the expansion of nuclear power and development of new nuclear technologies, the burning of natural gas in power stations, more energy efficient appliances and processes, more saving. Implemented together, these technologies would indeed allow compliance with this target of stabilisation over the next decade. However, huge investments would be required by most countries almost immediately.
The domestic energy politics associated with the determination of national positions at the INC was intense. As carbon richer fuels attempted to drive the more expensive, 'greener' newcomers (including energy conservation policies) out of the market place (or keep them inside research laboratories) with the help of falling prices, the latter responded with appeals to the 'environment, meaning intervention and regulation. However, falling prices fell would also increase the political and economic costs of government action. At a time of low energy or falling prices major interventions would have been required with uncertain results.
Governments were not sure. Energy demand is highly unelastic in societies increasingly dependent on mobility. Given falling prices and a world wide recession, governments during the late 1980s became less eager than they might have been earlier on, to ensure that these less carbon intensive fuels and technologies would remain or become competitive. Natural gas became their favourite fuel. Other causes were clamouring for public funds as the decade drew to a close.
The largely nationally based chorus of allies calling for intervention into energy markets and investments into new technologies reached its height in the mid-to-late 1980s, with the result that governments were persuaded by science and environmentalists to take the environmental threat seriously. They responded with a minimal but positive strategy, namely continued support for basic science and energy related R&D, apart from gas, the other low carbon sources of energy proved too expensive. In this way economies would be protected, it was felt, but their store of knowledge increased and the pool of national expertise expanded. Most governments refused to commit themselves to drastic changes in energy policy.
Given this resistance to change and the relative failure of 'science' to impact on energy policies, one can now ask how the institutions of science managed to raise and sustain the climate change issue in the first place - to become one of the OECD's 'megascience' projects of the 1990s?
The Origin of the Climate Convention IN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY
Science takes the Climate Threat to Politics
The knowledge which produced the Climate Convention can be traced to the early nineteenth century when Fourier raised the issue in 1827. In 1896 Arrhenius predicted an increase in air temperature of between 4 and 6 degrees in 1896 on the basis of laboratory tests, and in 1938 British steam technologist, G C Callendar, calculated that the planet was getting warmer because of carbon dioxide emissions. As this was seen as possibly preventing a return of another ice age, there was no need for 'policy'. Forecasting weather and climate remained a little respected 'science' for several more decades. Rather than the complexity of nature, it was the nuclear age which began to occupy the brightest minds. (Weart 1992) The global warming research debate began in earnest in the late 1950s, with the USA, Germany and Sweden as activists. In 1957 two scientists from the Scribb's Institute calmly pointed out that:
Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment...(which) if adequately documented, may yield far-reaching insights into the processes determining weather and climate'. (McKibben 1990)
Between 1957 and 1974 the study of man's potential influence on climate advanced rapidly. In 1961 Charles Keeling measured the increase of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere on top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii and warnings in the media began shortly afterwards. Climate modelling was now making rapid progress, thanks to ever more powerful computers and invading the world of meteorology. In 1965 the US Science Advisory Council apparently told the President that supercomputers would be able to make useful climate predictions down to the regional level within a few years (McCracken 1992). In 1970 the Massachusett's Institute of Technology convened 'Study of Critical Environmental Problems' concluded that global warming was a serious possibility and advocated that climate research should be aggressively expanded, combined with population control and protection of the food system.
The number of academic books on the subject soared, but the political system took little notice. The estimated temperature changes put forward in the 1970s for a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration, and the threat image produced, differed surprisingly little from those put forward in 1985 and 1990. (Kellog and Schware 1981) Climate change arguments had attached themselves to the limits to growth debate and were associated with attempts to model the future. As energy prices during the 1970s rose sharply (the oil crises), the market, well supported by public R&D expenditure, would provide the needed incentives for the development and use of 'new', low carbon technologies and fuels.
So when scientists tried again in the late 1970's to bring climatic change to the attention world politics, financed largely by American and West German money, they again failed, but this time World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) became involved and began to take up the issue.
The environmental lobby was as yet too weak and the workshops which were organised, while attracting the core of the current IPCC science community, remained far too 'Northern' in character. The international political system was not yet in need of the climate threat. New lobbies would have to join before climate could become ripe for international negotiations.
New institutions with very explicit interests in environmental matters and a global constituency which could introduce them via national (e.g. EPAs) and international bureaucracies (e.g. WMO) into the world of diplomacy were grow stronger during the 1970s. But by the end of the decade, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), still a rather weak intergovernmental body in search of tasks, had made climate a research and diplomatic issue which it shared with WMO. Professor Tolba mentioned energy and the need for better climate forecasting in 1974 without any reference to global warming, when addressing the First World Climate Conference in 1979, however, he referred to climate change as 'the process of carrying out an uncontrolled experiment on the earth's atmosphere' and assured his audience that UNEP was ready to carry out its role in the important area of assessing the environmental impacts of increased levels of carbon dioxide.
This new linkage of scientific knowledge and institutional interest was now becoming attractive to WMO, which had initiated its own climate research programme (WCRP), as well to as a large array of scientific organisations co-ordinated by the Paris based International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), among them its Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE). This has a very direct interest in environmental policy and global atmospheric modelling. ICSU and UNEP were becoming as concerned as WMO about the growing inability of developing countries to contribute to data collection and monitoring. They eventually pooled their efforts and, with the help of the environmental science 'lobby' and the promise of 'scientific consensus' succeeded in attracting the attention of world politics to the dangers and opportunities of climatic change. They happened in 1985.
The Villach Conference of 1985 and the Advisory Council on Greenhouse Gases (AGGG)
The Conference took place in the Austrian village of Villach in October 1985 and agreed to formally set up the AGGG under the sponsorship of UNEP, WMO and ICSU. It was organised by the Swedish International Meteorological Institute (IMI) and the Beijer Institute amd was revealingly called 'The Second Joint UNEP/ICSU/WMO International Assessment of the role of Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impact.(WMO, 1986) An earlier meeting in 1981 had remained a purely scientific affair. By 1985, however, a community of scientists had formed which included people deeply involved in energy and policy research who were determined to initiate a dialogue with 'policy-makers'. By this they understood government.
About 80 invited scientists from 29 countries presented commissioned papers at the Conference, debated research agendas and discussed policies. In 1986 the scientific papers, commissioned and peer-reviewed by the group around Goodman, were published jointly by WMO/ICSU and UNEP as the SCOPE 29 Report (Bolin et al 1986). Describing itself as representing the 'independent' scientific community, the Conference issued a statement to the effect that,
... it is now believed that in the first half of the next century a rise of global mean temperature could occur which is greater that any in man's history.
It also recommended that science based emission or concentration targets should be worked out to limit the rate of change of the global mean temperature to a maximum of 0.1 degree C.
The sections below deal at some length with the people behind the conference and the GAG. It includes biographical details in order to characterise briefly the nature of the 'epistemic community' and its perception of the policy process.
The Conference: Institutions and Personalities
The Conference was a joint efforts of several outstanding individuals with strong views on science and policy, as well as close connections to atmospheric science and other research areas in many countries. The Conference was chaired by Jim Bruce, a meteorologist then representing the Canadian Government who in 1993 he would became Chairman of a new IPCC Working Group after the first choice for the job became executive director of UNEP.
The chief organisers were Professors Gordon Goodman and Bert Bolin.Goodmann is a British ecologist with a strong research interest in energy matters and long time executive director of the Beijer Institute (now the Stockholm Environment Institute, SEI which was largely funded by the Swedish Government). Bolin remains the director of the IMI, also a most distinguished researcher and expert on the carbon cycle (Sweden has no GCM) and a veteran of international research management for ICSU and WMO. In 1988 he would become IPCC Chairman.
Many other institutions and individuals in addition to the above contributed to Villach and define the nature and extent of the research network underpinning the AGGG/IPCC. Three people attended for UNEP, among them Professor Tolba, and six people for WMO, all remaining faithful to the IPCC. The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) send Professor William Clark of Harvard University, a representative of non-governmental science. He had invited a climate modeller to predict the risks associated with a doubling of carbondioxide in order to stimulate policy developments rather than the art and science of climate modelling.
Already at this stage, Clark and IIASA saw the climate threat as part of the sustainable development agenda, while Professor Tom Malone, representing ICSU and American meteorology in general, contributed a paper urging science to deal cautiously with the policy question. (Malone 1992). The US governmental sector was represented only by the Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Research Division. Britain was represented by three people form CRU (University of East Anglia, including Professor Tom Wigley' and one research scientist from the Meteorological Office.
The Villach meeting was more cautious about the future than the IPCC would be in 1990. Another 10-20 years of observation would be needed before the detection of global warming was likely and William Clark claiming 'that uncertainty dominates every aspect of the greenhouse gas question, from emission rates through environmental consequences to socio-economic impact'. The Conference felt that refining estimates was 'a matter of urgency 'and recommended a long list of actions which remained vague with respect to policy, but were very specific for research wirh special reference to the research programmes of WMO, ICSU and national bodies. Industry was not mentioned. 'Scientists and policy-makers should begin active collaboration to explore the effectiveness of alternative policies'. Alternative policies meant energy policies and especially energy R&D.
No need for Consensus
The Conference was primarily concerned with an appropriate research agenda for the subject for the next decade or so, including for the social sciences (!)., but also recommended that a small task force should be set up by ICSU, UNEP and WMO which was to ensure inter alia, that 'periodic assessments are undertaken of the state of scientific understanding and its practical applications' and 'to initiate, if deemed necessary, consideration of a global convention' and 'to advise on further mechanisms and actions required at the national and international levels'. The small group already existed of course, for it had organised the Conference. There was no need for consensus, because only those in agreement with the aims of the group would be asked to join.
The Conference largely approved the broader, political brief called for by Tolba for UNEP under his 'agenda of action', but which also attracted some criticism, e.g. from Malone who feared that the proposals might leave the world of 'pure' research and interfere with the responsibilities of government.
The conference statement itself therefore presents a considerably milder version to that proposed by the working group chaired by Professor Goodman, which was concerned with the emissions of CO2 and proposed a contingency plan, as well as an International Greenhouse Gas Co-ordinating Committee. This was presumably to be a non-governmental body charged to:
·promote and co-ordinate research, monitoring and assessment
·promote the exchange of information related to climate warming
·prepare and disseminate educational material
·approve the possible advantages of an intergovernmental agreement on global convention
Strong efforts were also be directed at the analysis of decision-making rules under specific kinds of risks, the determination of damage costs from greenhouse warming as well as the analysis of the behaviour of policy-makers. The social science dimension for rational, technocratic decision-making was promoted.
However, the tensions subsequently revealed inside the IPCC between 'governmental' and 'non-governmental science', between science in the service of ecology and policy and 'neutral' science serving government) were therefore already present at Villach with the balance of power tilted towards the former and against General Circulation Models.
The Rise and Fall of the AGGG
The Conference approved the AGGG - that tiny group of distinguished environmental researchers and research managers possibly best described as research entrepreneurs, selected and brought together at the initiative of several individuals. It consisted of only seven members from five countries, with a strong North American bias, Canada and the US providing two members each. The Group itself continued meeting until 1987 and is best described as the non-governmental precursor of the IPCC.
The AGGG remained a major organising force behind the dissemination of the climate threat after 1985 its members remaining active inside an international policy advisory community which has grown considerably since the mid-1980s (Pearman 1990). In 1987 it invited sympathetic 'policy-makers' to a policy workshop in Italy, attended by, for example, a member of the German Government associated with energy policy and a representative from the EEC's Research Directorate. This meeting repeated the call for a climate convention. (Jäger, 1987) Its members organised 1988 Toronto NGO Conference on the Changing Atmosphere Implications for Global Security which called for a 20% reduction of CO2 emissions and caused considerable unease among governments, industry and government scientists. It also helped with the preparation of the Second World Climate Conference in 1990 (which failed to agree on CO2 reduction targets) and the dissemination of its results (Jäger and Ferguson 1991) , as well as assisting with preparing the Meeting of Legal and Policy Experts held in February 1989 in Ottawa.(Churchill and Freestone, 1992, p. 375)
Career movements tended to consolidate its network. The influence of the AGGG lay in the dedication of its members to a common cause supported by institutional strength and linkages. It could rely upon a global network to create and disseminate message to international scientific organisations and hence national scientific elites, as well as to governments. These elites could be found not only in the institutions of the geophysical and environmental sciences, but also in UN bureaucracies and in the maturing environmental lobby and its research arms, especially in the USA and Northern Europe.
There was therefore considerable bitterness the AGGG was replaced by the IPCC under pressure from the US State Department exerted through the Executive Committee of the WMO. This was also support by many developing countries who felt excluded from the whole process. The US State Department, presumably with the support of the US Department of Energy, wanted the scientific assessment to stay in governmental hands, not in that 'of free-wheeling academics'. By absorption and rejection of groups and individuals this led, in 1987, to the decision to set up the IPCC instead.
To many scientists not involved in the activities of the AGGG, the sudden attention given to the 'greenhouse affect' by politicians, for example in Britain, Norway and Australia, came as a welcome surprise. They suddenly saw governments coming to them for confirmation or rejection of the climate threat,(Working Group II, IPCC, 1991). Why this 'take-up' was so fast and successful during the late 1980s, in spite of a rear guard action fought in the USA administration, needs to be explained.
The overlap of individuals and institutions attending the Villach conference and later supporting the IPCC considerable and provides evidence for the existence of an expanding global epistemic community involving, initially, meteorologists, space and geophysicists, climatologists and energy policy analysts, as well as a few ecologists. While remaining firmly based in 'Northern' research institutes, these bodies are now engaged in strengthening the scientific community, probably the world's most exclusive club and influential and secretive lobby. While the AGGG succeeded in taking the policy debate into the world of politics (see below), its institutional base proved too poor to keep the issue out of the hands of governments, the WMO and governmental research laboratories with their greater ability to fund GCM experiments.
The Brundtland Report, New Allies and Old Foes
Part of the answer for the success of the Villach Conference and the AGGG derives from the ability of the scientific lobby to disseminate its message well and influence government directly or via governmental organisations. They also had the support of some governments from the very start, e.g. Sweden, Austria, Canada. Conferences were soon hosted by them thus rapidly spreading the Villach message to the public and managers of political power, (Thomas 1992).
The disseminating capacities of the AGGG and the 'ripeness' of the time therefore combined to initiated the process which led the FCCC. Negotiations started once the world of diplomacy had been fully alerted and persuaded. The main vehicle for the transmission of the AGGG message was the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) which produced the widely cited Brundtland Report in 1987 (WCED 1987).Environmental research institutes were deeply involved in its drafting, and SCOPE 29 and the Villach Meeting of 1985 are cited. The energy chapter by G Goodman calls for convention on climatic change for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and a global effort to conserve energy and promote renewable energies. The chapter remains cautiously optimistic about nuclear power, a position which was later grateful acknowledged by, inter alia, Margaret Thatcher.
Many politicians and the development lobby were now also attracted by the sustainability arguments, as WCED argued the long term problem would provide the ideal issue around which North and South could unite and develop an agenda for sustainability and technology transfer. The energy policies and industries of many countries could be reorganised in a more rational way. The very idea that the threat of global warming would unite mankind again had for some time been given publicity by UNEP. (Tolba, 1982)
However, neither the AGGG nor the WCED had direct links to the centres of government whose leading members were largely funded by private and UN bodies and who were continually crossing the boundaries between science and international politics, such as Mostafa Tolba (Tolba, 1990), Maurice Strong and Tom Malone (see above). Their influence in national politics was relatively weak. Two major sets of actors were still missing from this early alliance in favour of global action. Without the positive participation of governments, including governmental research laboratories as well as Ministries responsible for energy policy and industry, no policy consensus would be possible. Industry as the main target of remedial action, had so far hardly been involved in their deliberations. It had already began to participate in the policy formation process on both sides of the debate.
'Ignored' institutions therefore began to wrest the policy initiative from the AGGG network, with 'top management' being replaced by a new set of figures more able to cross international/national boundaries and also more capable of anchoring the international agenda to the national science base via policy 'relevance' arguments. In return, governments would be able, given sufficient political incentive, to provide the research funds and policy relevance.
Here the WMO and national meteorological agencies would become particularly important and useful and the foci of action. Advice-giving would move from academe and private funding foundations to the research institutions of government, especially their meteorological services and military research laboratories. Once this was achieved, the common interest of the 'scientific community' could reassert itself in that collaboration between government laboratories and other research bodies was needed and sought. The bipolar world was still intact and common 'issues' were sought.
WMO AND THE GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA
WMO in control
However, after extensive briefing in 1987 by the Secretary of the Brundtland Commission, the WMO made a strong bid for the control of climate change research as well as its socio-economic implications, an agenda it inherited from the AGGG. The decision to establish a panel on climate change was made at its 1987 Congress, the year the AGGG disintegrated. In early 1987 governments received a letter from WMO and UNEP inviting them to appoint delegates to the IPCC, preferably their WMO representatives. Many did and thus gave their blessings to what can be called to largest international exercise of scientific advice giving in history. This exercise could not arise in a vacuum - part of it did and thus failed - but grew from a collaborative research effort predating the IPCC by at least a decade. It is therefore considered first, though some idea of what the WMO had envisaged before governments intervened is of interest here.
The panel as envisaged in 1987 was 'to provide the international assessment that would enable the Directors of National Meteorological Service to advise their governments on the evidence for and nature of the climate threat and what they might do about it'. Something smaller than the current IPCC appeared to be in the mind of the WMO Executive, more closely related to research than policy. WMO could not do the research task alone because some of its climate change research was already being undertaken collaboratively with UNEP and ICSU. Also, WMO had become concerned that UNEP might 'run with' the global warming issue without science. So the IPCC was set up jointly, but with WMO very much in control.
In 1988, the WMO Executive Council made its final decisions. It was agreed that the IPCC, in its planning, should consider the need for identifying uncertainties and gaps in present knowledge with regard to climate change and its potential impacts. These very gaps already formed the object of two major research programmes in progress or being planned, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) managed by ICSU and generally referred to as Global Change.
The choice of the WMO as the organisation most fitted for the task was wise. It is by far the most effective organisation for advancing the interests of climate change research. With a world wide network of meteorological offices and a senior scientific elite deeply involved in atmospheric and increasingly oceanographic research, it provided the national/international link essential for effective policy-making and, even more so, implementation. Its WMO links became particularly important for the IPCC because they brought not only informal contacts with ICSU and national research bodies, but also with national meteorological offices and hence several government departments. 'Met Offices' are influential national institutions well endowed with research opportunities and funds because of their links with the military.
Global research interests: WCRP and IGBP
WMO's direct interest in climate change research dates back to the mid 1970s when the Climate Panel of its Executive Committee considered the subject and recommended a research programme. (Malone, 1986) Yet in 1979, the WMO leadership and especially British and American delegates, felt little attraction for the subject and remained doubtful whether climate, in addition to weather, should become a major focus for WMO research. A World Climate Research Programme was adopted, however. It cannot here be described in detail.
WCRP forms a major ingredient of the global change research agenda which is aimed at the modelling of the physical planet earth, including landuse and emission changes (the social sciences as defined by the needs of ICSU). It is supplementary to the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and UNEP's research on environmental monitoring and climate impacts, which involve WMO, ICSU and UNEP as organising, fund raising and co-ordinating bodies.
The IPCC has come to promote them every opportunity for it is dependent for new (and free) knowledge and labour from these sources. Diagram 3 illustrates the British view of the IPCC, with the IPCC at the centre of the international global change research effort. The German view appears to be less centred on the Panel, (BMFT 1992), for the German government received scientific advice earlier and from domestic a domestic source before the IPCC reported.
In 1990 the US Committee on Global Change and the US National Committee for the IGBP of the Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources of the National Research Council published a report which had been developed by US research institutions between 1986 and 1988 and which became the foundation for the IGBP. (US National Research Council, 1990)
The US agenda was disseminated globally for approval and implementation by ICSU in the mid-1980s, allegedly in response to the concern which the climate threat had so surprisingly generated. It had been written as 'a step in the evolving process of defining the scientific needs for understanding changes in the global environment changes that are of great concern. One chapter out of nine deals with humanity. A small section of the Global Change research agenda is now devoted to the Human Dimension, primarily because of the alleged impacts of landuse changes on physical variables, (Price 1992; Price and Jacobson 1990) This too reflects primarily US priorities. The importance of 'Global Change' for the US research community and to ensure its policy relevance, are obvious. It had little to gain from an advisory body that would foreshorten the policy process by recommending action rather than another decade of research.
Parts of IGBP are now in the early stages of implementation, more are being planned (ICSU 1991). The aims go well beyond the prediction of climate change, although findings here will be required for modelling the planet. IGBP has its headquarters in Sweden and is supported by a number of national secretariats in the major research nations, the WCRP and UNESCO's oceanographic programmes, as well as the climate impact studies and monitoring studies of UNEP. These research tasks are primarily defined by and for the natural sciences and will occupy researchers for the several decades.
Growing links between IPCC and IGBP
There are considerable personal and institutional links between IPCC and IGBP because research scientists report to both. The IGBP System for Training, Analysis, Research and Training (START) programme, which is aimed at strengthening to scientific capacity of poor countries and now needs funding, constitutes one common interest. It is already being funded via the Global Environment Facility. Its November 1992 workshop in Niger was attended by Jim Bruce, Chairman of the 1985 Villach Conference and Chairman of the new IPCC working group III. (IGBP/ICSU Newsletter, 1993, see below) The growing involvement of the space science community in global research can also be documented (Global Change Prisma 1992) and benefits from the research experience of both Sir John Houghton and Bert Bolin. ICSU bodies have appealed to the IPCC for sponsorship of workshops.
The goal of these research programmes is the full understanding of the physical systems of the planet Earth as increasingly affected by the human species, and already dreamed of by American scientists in the 1950s. To the scientific uncertainties which so clearly afflict human understanding of this physical system, in spite of growing attention being paid to 'biotic feedbacks' and advances expected in the modelling of the processes which are responsible for the complex feedbacks between ocean circulation, the radiative regime and the hydrological cycle (Houghton 1991), there must now be added economic ones.
Given the experimental nature of these models and their lack of relevance to national policy, they nevertheless fit the demand for 'purely technical' advice, the type of service that governments accept as objective and value free, leaving all judgements to political institutions. (Bolin, 1992) . The definition of scientific which emerges from these research programmes is primarily mathematical, and as such capable of being translated into equations that can be solved and be used to predict the future. The 'economisation' of nature and human nature will be promoted by this research agenda.
The knowledge communicated to the policy world by IPCC is therefore considered to be only the 'relevant' tip of a research iceberg of highly ambitious proportions and increasingly integrated in the search of data for global modelling. How did it function and respond to the pressures brought to bear upon it since its heyday in the late 1980s?
THE IPCC - ITS TASKS AND ORGANISATION
In 1988 the UN General Assembly (UNGA) had called upon UNEP and WMO to jointly prepare a framework convention on climate change. This was to contain:
appropriate commitments for actions to combat climate change...taking into account the most up-to-date sound scientific knowledge and any existing uncertainties. (Churchill and Freestone 1992)
However, by late 1990, the General Assembly decided that the issue had to be removed from these two bodies and negotiated under its own auspices. Too many agendas had by now attached themselves to the climate threat. UNGA established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) and with only tenuous links to the IPCC. The climate issue was now being negotiated as part of the wider United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), a bargaining process between North and South in which energy interests would play the major role already outlined. This development weakened chances of a climate convention with a stronger policy dimension, but also enhanced the opportunities for WMO to direct IPCC towards the global research agenda.
The IPCC consists of a small secretariat and bureau of about 50 people, the former based in Geneva inside WMO headquarters. Its plenary body brings leading government scientists and research managers together with diplomats and government officials and meets twice a year to take formal decisions. The Bureau can be considered the ultimate IPCC decision-maker, less for what is included in full reports, but for what is said, or not, in policy-makers summaries and shortened reports to other bodies. It is the producer of the consensus and threat images, i.e. the perceptions of uncertainties and promises which are released into the world of politics and the media.
The 'real' scientific work of the Panel takes place under the supervision of 'government scientists' in the large number of subgroups of three major working groups (WG): I, II and III. These were set up in 1988 by chairman selected largely by WMO in negotiation with interested governments.
WGs I and II reflect the existing research interests of WMO science) and UNEP (impacts), with WG III added for government people to 'draw' the appropriate policy implication from the knowledge gathered and assessed (but not really communicated) by the other two. This structure reveals a highly linear model of policy process in which 'science' thinks and recommends in isolation, while politicians accept and implement.
(Diagrams 1 and 2 give some idea of the political structure of the IPCC before 1992, when its structure was changed significantly.)OPTIONAL
The working group members as initially proposed by WMO, ICSU and UNEP but selected by governments, met according to their own arrangements, always provided funding was available. This largely means having to rely on the generosity of host governments. Timetables are set by official needs, and have been considered excessively tight for overworked scientists who are not employed to do IPCC work, but on whose good will and efforts the Panel ultimately depends and whose integrity it must protect. By 1993, fears about 'IPCC fatigue', growing bureaucratisation and time tables far too tight for 'new' knowledge to emerge, were widely voiced by this research community.
While the selection of members of its two science based working groups was largely but by no means always, left to the initially selected chairmen and vice-chairmen, the third working group, WG III charged with response strategies, became a forum mainly for government people and some lobbyists from industry and the environmental movement. Political debate rather than the evaluation of academic findings were typical of the group which the USA had requested to chair. A fourth group was charged with looking after the interests of developing countries and had to deal with a large number of political and practical issues arising from the desire of countries without significant scientific infrastructures to participate.
These IPCC groups published report independently of each other, of varying quality and finish which largely reflected the available resources national 'host' were providing. First reports became available just prior to the Second World Climate Conference in 1990. A combined report was sent to this major international gathering of experts and politicians. At all these political gatherings, deep tensions became apparent between Europe and the USA and its ally, Saudi Arabia. The scientific community had to learn to negotiate its knowledge claims in the presence of these tensions. The IPCC updated its advice for UNCED in 1992 and is currently working on its second update, the work plan of its science assessment group, as well as its funding, being assured until 1995.
All IPCC publications examined devote significant attention to research gaps and uncertainties needing further research. As might be expected in active and exciting research field of enormous complexity, these needs have increased rather than decreased over time, and are possibly largest for WG II. Ever more types of expertise are clamouring for inclusion, medical research being one of the latest.
The working groups
The IPCC's job was to gather and evaluate 'sound', i.e. trusted, knowledge and then draw advice from it, two very different tasks. WG I was to assess available scientific information on climate change with Sir John Houghton, a distinguished British scientist as Chairman.
This group of several hundred research scientists already possessed a genuine global research base developed since the late 1960s, especially of institutions capable of modelling climate with GCMs. This including only large research institutions, as well as some Meteorological Offices. It was to become a British co-ordinated and led effort, working effectively from a small secretariat within the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research funded by the UK Department of the Environment and using the MET Office research facilities and findings.
The brief of WG II was to assess environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change. It was to be managed by a Soviet Chairman, Academician closely involved with policy-making in the USSR, Yuri Izreal , but this task increasingly fell to the Australian CSIRO and Dr McTegart, who chairs the Australian Science and Technology Council.
This group faced a formidable task of dealing with the impact of hypothetical knowledge from a vast array of disciplines and parts of the earth surface. It proved a welcome home for geographers engaged in modelling and has probably been most active and successful at the regional level. It involved very disparate types of expertise ranging from the pure natural sciences (e.g. hydrology, ecology) to interdisciplinary studies (such agriculture and forestry). Policy needs directed many traditionally analytical and descriptive fields of academic study towards prediction enabled by computer simulations.
While probably not intentional, WG II also came to attract scientists interested in man as a species with significant impacts on emissions and landuse and hence likely to have to respond to the changes the impacts of climate change might have on societies. The networks upon which this group could built were initially small but have grown rapidly, although no detailed data was collected.
This group was asked to formulate response strategies under an US chairmanship (first F Bernthal and later Mr Robert Reinstein), reflecting some difficulties in this group in coming to terms with its vast brief which would involve largely national and regional knowledge. This WG was very active at some national levels, but ignored at others. It is difficult to evaluate, but some respondents from within governments found it extremely useful as a learning exercise, a forum where government could listen to the debates which 'science' had aroused without having an agenda of its own, at this stage.
Working Group III had the hardest task, though its became less ambitious over time, moving from proposing response strategies to defining options. WG I and III had a difficult relationship at times, as the latter was asked to provide the former with emission scenarios, by far the most controversial aspect of the IPCC tasks, notoriously uncertain and 'political' in nature. Communication between the groups was poor to non-existent. Some scientists interviewed were unaware of II and III while involved with WG I.
As UNCED approached, the IPCC had to concern itself with its own future. This included responding to internal and external dissatisfaction with its structure, mixed performance and narrow disciplinary base for the defining of policy options. With UNCED over, politicisation was declining and a more technical and academic (or technocratic) approach in WG III would become possible. This became a matter of internal discussion prior to the seventh plenary in Geneva 1992, together with the question of budget and future resources.
For governments, the question was becoming one of how the IPCC was to relate to, or even merge with, the institutions set up under the Climate Convention. For the IPCC, a battle for independent, but policy relevant survival began. Organisations do not generally abolish themselves, only a small if experienced and influential IPCC participants believed that the IPCC had completed it task or could no longer function freely under growing bureaucratic and political pressures.
At its eighth plenary meeting a new structure was approved which had to take into account not only the recently agreed Convention, but also the wishes of the working groups, governments and UN sponsors. In the new Bureau agreed upon in Harare, the developing countries would now have the majority, 15 out of 28 members, including six regional representatives as well as all the chairmen (co and vice) in charge of the working groups. In the reorganisation of working groups during 1992, WG I survived almost intact, making a direct role inside the FCCC very likely, as was the wish of ICSU/WMO but which UNEP appeared to fear because of the potential loss of close links with the NGO sector.
According to Professor Bolin, the task of science will be to ensure that more knowledge becomes available on the carbon cycle, especially of the influence of agriculture and the landuse, and on the uptake of C02 by the oceans, 'presumably our knowledge will improve during the next few years'. (Bolin 1992) This in turn would help the climate modellers, who in turn might be able to give more reliable numbers to the impact modellers who could then provide better information about the precise physical conditions and costs to which adjustment would be needed.
WGs II and III were combined into a new WG II, whose chairman is Robert Watson, a British born ozone scientist at NASA with a considerable interest in ecology and the view that IPCC advice need not be consensual. He will replace a more political appointment shift the work of this working group, as widely desired, to a purer research position. Zimbabwe, India and Japan as will act as Vice-Chairs. The new WG II thus represents a vast gathering of applied natural and human scientific knowledge indeed. Reflecting existing arrangements, four large subgroups were agreed. Presumably, continued work at the regional and national rather than the global level will be most useful for this group.
A new group III will replace the much maligned old group, in the past a home of government people and lobbyists rather than experts 'to deal with cross-cutting economic and other issues related to climate change', primarily to offer a home for the conventional economists modelling the global economy for carbon taxes etc. It has the potential of bringing the natural and societal/ technological knowledge closer together for the benefit of government, should these want such advice. It was to be chaired by a Canadian woman, Ms Elizabeth Dowdeswell, but when she was appointed to UNEP, Jim Bruce (see above).
Assessing and Promoting Research or Advising on Policy?
Recent changes in the IPCC means that while its brief has widened considerably, its management is now entirely (and formally) in the hands of natural scientists with close links to government research in Britain, the USA and Canada. There dependence on work done elsewhere, e.g. the OCED and IEA, seems to be growing , however. Bolin himself has stated, the IPCC now wants a clear separation of technical and political issues, for it is:
the essential function of the IPCC to thoroughly address the scientific-technical issues so that the International Negotiating Committee (INC) and the Conference of the Parties to the Convention is free to concentrate on the political questions arising...(Bolin 1992)
The function of the IPCC is to assess the available knowledge related to climate change. Political considerations and judgements are not part of this function. (IPCC 1992)
The criteria by which this knowledge is to be assessed is not made explicit and it is therefore assumed that the review will be purely scientific, i.e. the robustness of the conclusions, the reliability of observational data and the rigour of its methodologies. On the basis of this, further knowledge will be sought. Policy will have to be devised by somebody else. The research lobby has returned to its true function, thus raising questions about the original motives of the AGGG and the extent to which these were inherited by the IPCC.
The fundamental problem with the IPCC was tension over its role. It was not meant to be a body for the advocacy of global and national research agendas, but a group of 'wise men' from which governments wanted to seek advice and gain authority for their policies. As demonstrated, the initiative for this advisory role came from the institutions of science wishing to present their knowledge claims and agendas to governments, but whose primary gaol remained research and gaining resources.
The institutions and individuals represented in the Bureau largely represents the interests of natural science research. Underlying the structure and thinking of the IPCC, however, is a 'model' of the policy process which is unrealistic because it does not admit to the 'toothlessness of science... the Enlightenment fallacy that knowledge automatically produces response'.(Berry, 1993) Instead it is based on a simplistic view which sees science not only as one ingredient of policy, but as its very foundation. This was well expressed for example, when Malone as the representatives of ICSU argued at the 1985 Villach Conference that:
The two broad general lines of action, one concerned with science, the other with policy, are not antagonistic or incompatible and indeed can reinforce one another through interchange of information...(WMO, 1986, p. 17)
IPCC documents expect policy to emerge from the inputs made by experts, i.e. to proceed from an understanding of the physical problems and their prediction (which depends on enormous assumptions about the future of society), to 'value-free' economic evaluation of their effects on industry, trade and economic growth, to the technocratic definition of responses options from which political systems then rationally select and implement in harmony with each other. Government is perceived as virtually all powerful and appear to demand advise of this type. By accepting this view, governments themselves benefit politically for it leaves the 'real' decisions to them and avoids the raising of 'sensitive' issues, such as ownership questions, poverty, quality of decision-making etc. Change will therefore be difficult.
GLOBAL WARMING POLITICS AND THE ROLE OF SCIENTIFIC ADVICE
The politics of global warming which produced the FCCC codifies the need for more research and data collection by the international scientific community. The global change agenda has been codified as a policy relevant project largely devoted to improving the physical understanding of the Earth. Action is left to national cost-benefits balances. On the question of what to do, scientists have, as they must, thrown the ball back to the political camp who will have to assess the many risks of action and inaction, and will have to think of more convincing reasons for painful actions, should these be decided upon, than appeals to 'sound science' or facts.
The weakness of responses so far, including the Berlin Mandate which commits governments 'to begin a process to enable....to take appropriate action' from an environmentalist perspective, should not surprise given the intense economic, ethical and political disputes which arose from the proposed policies which primarily turned against the use of fossil fuels at a time when these were again becoming serious rivals to 'clean' fuels and expensive technologies. The politics of response policies concerned the ways and means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, not the uncertainties of the 'scientific base' which became tools in a debate which would benefit research. Scientific advice derived almost exclusively at the global research frontiers is by nature inconclusive. This also makes it attractive to policy strategies aimed at delay and non-action.
The AGGG and IPCC attracted attention and resources to this agenda by releasing speculative but influential threat images into the world of politics and making future knowledge 'relevant' to policy decisions governments were reluctant to take now. It this process, 'scientific consensus' remained an ambivalent concept. It was used to bestow authority and legitimacy to policy allegedly based on science, but in fact based on the opinion of senior scientists who thereby gained policy influence at the national level.
However, such scientific consensus was not, could not be firm and credible enough to withstand the onslaught of scientific scepticism, especially as promoted by the potential losers of global warming politics, natural resources intensive economies and industries.
The strong influence of a small group of distinguished individuals in initiating the political process in which the FCCC was negotiated has been demonstrated, as has their failure fully to appreciate the policy process. Global politics thus transformed the noble goal of protecting the global atmosphere, inter alia, into a more utilitarian game about persuading governments to intervene in energy markets on the side of higher prices. Energy supply industries and R&D interests, which had become deeply embedded in government and research during the 1970s, provided the political energy which made society and politics listen more attentively to environmentalists' claims and concerns. Together, these groups appealed to science for the justification of their interests, creating a temporary alliance strong enough to give the impression that the world's energy system might be turned around quickly.
The IPCC came to be seen as representing this alliance, which includes the environmental lobby, UN functional agencies and assorted real or potential winners in energy competition. These allies were especially important in disseminating the climate threat to government departments and other national actors. Calls for governmental intervention to raise energy prices, remove regulation or provide subsidies, seemed almost irresistible. Science had predicted that the future of mankind was at stake! This alliance might have had more success had energy prices stopped declining in the mid 1980s. As most governments were persuaded that action was too costly or impossible (though planning for the future and collecting data would appeal to national bureaucracies), they tend to resist the technical solutions that the sciences have on offer, for effective policy responses require much more than consensual science. This, at its best, only defines the nature of the problem, not politically feasible solutions. (Boehmer-Christiansen 1992). Instead, science promotes itself with the promise of reducing uncertainties and hence future costs.
Rising energy prices during the 1970s created the losers, and hence political incentives, of the 1980s, when commitments and investments to 'soft' energy sources and energy conservation came to be sustained with reference to global warming rather than limits to growth. During the 1970s neither the research nor energy policy communities felt strongly attracted to the climate change issue, though it was available, because the market was moving energy option in the 'right' direction. By the mid-1980s, however, these non-fossil fuel interests and some major governments felt sufficiently threatened by falling energy prices to turn 'green' and seek alliances with environmentalist bodies. The prospects of a higher oil and coal prices brought about by regulation encouraged fossil fuel interests to become lobbyists in the political arena. This intensive interlocking of environmental and energy politics during the late 1980s/early 1990s meant that climate change was picked up and amplified sufficiently to become the subject of a treaty which primarily serves research and bureaucratic interests. Political fights over energy policy disturbed national politics and spilled over to the international level (Grubb 1992).
Policy relevant environmental science faces a deep political dilemma. Once an environmental problem is sufficiently understood by governments, they tend to go elsewhere for advice and expertise - to lawyers, engineers, economists, certainly away from the natural sciences. The fundamental political question therefore is, who is to define 'sufficient'? Surely this should not be the very community which has such a high stake in uncertainty and hence in any policy response which reduces its relevance.
The advice the IPCC was asked to give (which was not quite was it offered in the first place) remained quite insufficient for effective policy. The IPCC inquired into the 'socio-economic' impacts of the problem, but not into its societal causes or the political and institutional obstacles that might have to be overcome during the implementation. Such questions were not 'safe', as the AGGG found out. UN agencies and their research networks are well advised to stick to apolitical, allegedly value free technical questions. The WCRP and IGBP would fit this bill.
In giving advice that would reach governments in this politically constrained framework, the IPCC needed to protect the integrity of science and the UN/ICSU based research agenda. Researchable uncertainties were needed to perpetuate influence once the claim to policy relevance (i.e. 'mission' related research) had been accepted. Policy relevance is therefore a dangerous commitment for science as well as policy, meaning that institutions of science can prosper only if they survive unscathed in the highly dangerous arena of politics and that policy cannot progress until the research lobby has been satisfied. In turn, science must offer either what governments want to hear, or value-free services. As has been argued elsewhere, this myth of value free science is needed to protect science from being divided and weakened by politics (Proctor 1991).
The institutions of science, rather than agreed and tested knowledge, should therefore be treated as dependent political actor in the policy process, not as an oracle or decision-maker (Mukerji 1989). This will require increasing attention by policy-makers, for the growing institutionalisation of research and its 'market-driven' behaviour will affect knowledge claims. In this setting, science leaders will first of all serve science rather than public policy. The temptation - for scientific lobbies - to create consensus where debate is more appropriate in order to enhance their own authority and impact is always present, but would increase as the institutions of science, and their products, turn into explicit political actors in the 'knowledge market'. This requires a new model of policy-making than that still dear to heart of most scientists. Scientific debate and controversy will need protection.
For scientific institutions this means that they must throw the ball back into the political camp, especially to national policy makers and the environmentalists who will have to think of more convincing reasons for decisive action than appeals to consensual science. Society transforms theory and evidences into effective and practical knowledge, but not in a hierarchical context which scientists pretend to speak for everybody, however convenient this might be to institutions managing power.
This paper has therefore argued for both a more realistic view by scientists of their own importance in environmental policy-making and for the explicit recognition by governments and policy analysts of the importance of 'non-scientific', especially political, factors in the making and giving of policy advice. Implementable climate protection policy cannot needs to be based on broad spectrum of knowledge, expertise and judgement.
While a few governments perceived opportunities from the rapid reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases in response to an uncertain threat, far too many perceived very certain threats to economic growth, welfare and their own political stability. The real policy problems governments would face had not been addressed by the IPCC and most governments were left helpless.
The IPCC, as well as IGBP and its human dimensions component have so far paid very little attention to why governments might find the implementation of technical options for reducing emissions difficult if not impossible. The need for understanding society and political processes has hardly been admitted, or was discarded very early. Rather research concentrated on what governments considered 'safe': technical matters as the diagnostics of future environmental problem which were to be explored with the aid of the latest developments in space and information technology. Science continues to promise that climate change is sufficiently predictable by numerical experiments (ocean and atmospheric circulation models coupled to emission scenarios based on a host of socio-economic assumptions) to allow rational decision-making within another ten to fifteen years. This promise should be critically examined by policy analysts and philosophers of science, as well as by all those who doubt that 'expensive 'energy serves mankind's survival and progress.
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AGGG Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases
BAHC Biosphere Aspects of the Hydrological Cycle
CCCO Committee on Climate Changes and the Ocean (SCOR/IOC)
CMP Climate Modelling Project (WMO)
CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
EDF Environmental Defence Fund (US)
FCCC Framework Convention on Climate Change
GAIM IGBP Task Force on Global Analysis, Interpretation and Modelling
GARP Global Atmospheric Research Programme (WMO/ICSU)
GCTE Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems (IGBP)
GEMS Global Environmental Monitoring System (UNEP)
GEWEX Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment
HDP Human Dimension on Global Environmental Change Programme
ICSU International Council of Scientific Unions
IGAC International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Programme (MIT/ICSU)
IGBP International Geosphere Biosphere Programme
IGOSS Integrated Global Ocean Services System (WMO/IOC)
IHP International Hydrological Program (UNESCO)
IIASA International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
INC International Negotiating Committee
IOC Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commissoin (of UNESCO)
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
ISCCP International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project
ISLSCP International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project
JGOFS Joint Global Ocean Flux Study
LOICZ Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone
MAP Man and Biosphere Programme
MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NCAR National Corporation for Atmospheric Research
NERC Natural Environment Research Council
OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
PAGES Past Global Changes (IGBP)
SCAR Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (ICSU)
SCOPE Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment
SCOR Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (ICSU)
SEI Stockholm Environment Institute
SPARC Stratospheric Processes and their role in Climate (WMO)
START System for Training, Analysis, Research and Training
TOGA Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Programme
UN United Nations
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
UNGA United Nations General Assembly
USDOE United States Department of the Environment
WCED World Commission on Environment and Development
WCP World Climate Programme
WCRP World Climate Research Programme (WMO)
WG Working Goup (IPCC)
WMO World Meteorological Organisation
WOCE World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WMO)
WRI World Resources Institute (US)