STS and Climate Change: Perspectives on/from the Global South 
Tiago Ribeiro Duarte (University of Brasília)
Marko Monteiro (State University of Campinas)
Raoni Rajão (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais)
Myanna Lahsen (Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE))
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Friday 2 September, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This track seeks to bring together STS researchers who study climate science and climate policy in the Global South. We are particularly interested in empirical studies that privilege developing countries and their perspectives on climate change.

Long Abstract

Climate change has emerged in the last decades as a global environmental issue with policy developments that seek to have a global reach. Since then, STS researchers have been interested in the issue and carried out research on a wide range of topics related to the production, communication, and legitimation of climate science and climate policy. This track seeks to bring together STS researchers who look at these processes in the Global South. We are particularly interested in empirical studies that privilege developing countries contexts and their perspectives on climate change. We welcome abstracts on topics such as:

. The construction of knowledge on climate change in developing countries

. The geopolitics of interdisciplinary collaboration in climate science

. Scientific and political controversies over climate change

. Public understanding of climate science

. Climate change and the science/policy interface in the Global South

. Public participation/engagement in/with climate science and climate policy

. Social movements and climate change

. Climate science and traditional knowledges

. Monitoring technologies and the construction of perceptions of climate change

. Global and regional climate models

. Climate science communication

. Climate change and postcolonial issues

. Climate change and inequality


Accepted papers:


Kari De Pryck (University of Geneva)
Tommaso Venturini (École Normale Supérieure Lyon)
Audrey Baneyx (Sciences Po / Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques)

Paper short abstract:

Our research is interested with both quantitatively and qualitatively exploring the participation of scientists from developing countries in one of the largest international expert organizations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Paper long abstract:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the biggest and oldest global environmental assessment: established in 1988, it has been surveying the state of climate science for 28 years and has involved more than 4200 scientists from 117 countries. Since its establishment, the IPCC's has been criticized for not including enough scientists from developing countries and it has struggled ever since to respond to such challenge. In this perspective, we propose to look back to the involvement of IPCC scientists from developing countries over the five assessment cycles (from 1990 to 2014), the largest participation of Southern scientists. Building on a comprehensive database of IPCC authors and interactive visualizations developed at the médialab (Sciences Po Paris), we trace the commitment of scientists from the Global South over the three Working Groups, chapters and roles. This database allowed us to explore the organization as a datascape from the whole to the individual and understand their interactions. The results show a gradual rise in developing country participation (between 32%-36%), with significant differences between Working Groups, roles (the increase is significantly higher for responsibility roles then for contributing roles) and party groupings. We further explore those findings using a more qualitative approach based on expert interviews and participant observation. In particular, we discuss the distribution of authors according to different regions, by presenting our first-hand observation of the complex balance practices employed to elect the members of the IPCC's Bureau in October 2015.


Tiago Ribeiro Duarte (University of Brasília)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I present quantitative data that indicate disciplinary, gender, and regional, inequalities in the authorship composition of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change. I make suggestions on how these inequalities could be reduced in the PBMC making it more inclusive and pluralist.

Paper long abstract:

The Brazilian Panel on Climate Change (BPCC) was founded in 2009 by the Brazilian government to produce review reports of the scientific literature on climate change to inform climate policy. It is an attempt to reproduce the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Brazil. Its goals, working groups, and reports´ templates are identical to those of the IPCC. However, the BPCC also reproduces disciplinary, gender, and authorship inequalities that have been previously found in the IPCC and that are also present in the wider Brazilian society. In this paper I present quantitative data that show that the BPCC is composed mostly of Natural Scientists, men, and individuals from the Southeast of Brazil, the most industrialised/modernised area of the country. In other words, the BPCC follows a number of hierarchies that are prevalent in modern societies and that have been strongly criticised in the post- and decolonial literature. I make suggestions on how the BPCC could be partly decolonised, as a full decolonisation would depend on wider processes taking place in the Brazilian society, by implement authorship policies that would make it more inclusive and pluralist.


Raoni Rajão (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais)

Paper short abstract:

Based on an ethnography of the UNFCCC negotiations this study attempts to understand how climate justice and postcolonial relations are reframed and performed. It is argued that climate justice is being instrumentalized discursively and politically.

Paper long abstract:

This study draws upon Foucauldian discourse analysis in order to understand how the performance of climate justice has led to a (re)negotiation of North-South relations in the context of the UNFCCC Paris Climate Agreement signed in December 2015. The presentation argues that there is a systematic effort of Northern countries to unmake the notion of differentiation (and thus of their primary responsibility in the convention) by pointing to the economic development and current emissions of some Southern nations. At the same time Southern countries reaffirm their underdevelopment and demand for the North the transfer of more financial resources and inherently superior technologies in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change. From this assertion the article instigates post-colonial studies of climate change to look more closely at how the north-south divide is being instrumentalized discursively and politically.


Sam Geall (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork among contemporary Chinese journalists, this paper explains how reporters addressing the non-linear complexities of climate change find stable enough realities to generate political positions.

Paper long abstract:

In 1937, Mao Zedong observed that China, long dominated by feudalism, had "undergone great changes in the last hundred years and is now changing in the direction of a new China, liberated and free, and yet no change has occurred in her geography and climate." (Mao 2007 [1937]: 70). Climate change has since destabilized such modes of thinking about nature and society. The climate's innate instability has not only been compounded by humans, but also there is a growing understanding of the importance of the non-equilibrium dynamics (Behnke, Scoones and Kerven 1993, Ostrom 2009) and of incertitude in understanding the climate (Lahsen 2005: 895).

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork among contemporary Chinese journalists reporting the science and politics of climate change, this paper shows how a destabilizing phenomenon with nonlinear and uncertain dynamics can be drawn upon to explore how one might proceed to develop a political position without closing down uncertainties and ambiguities and without establishing a singular narrative of a situation.

The paper shows that some Chinese journalists have created such a position: in their terms, an "edgeball" space - a word from ping-pong, used to describe politically sensitive journalism. Such edgeball spaces, the paper argues, create situations where an outcome is not known in advance: a necessary condition for politics (Massey 2005, 11-12). The paper thus attempts to investigate the interplay of epistemological and ontological positions in China's changing political and geophysical climates - and how and when this interface creates stable enough realities for people to generate political positions.


Lisa Dilling (University of Colorado Boulder)
Meaghan Daly (University of Colorado Boulder)
Mara Goldman (University of Colorado at Boulder Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL))
Eric Lovell (University of Colorado)

Paper short abstract:

We outline an approach in the context of climate adaptation in Tanzania to bring together an understanding of how multiple knowledges are produced, articulated, and represented with the study of relations of power across scales.

Paper long abstract:

Least-developed countries have begun to compile national adaptation plans and integrate climate change within development activities. Until now, adaption planning has primarily relied on top-down scientific approaches. There are increasing efforts to disseminate scientific climate data to support adaptation at local scales, but little consideration has been given to how this scientific knowledge interacts with indigenous climate knowledge and customary coping mechanisms. We argue that barriers to linking knowledge with adaptive actions stem from insufficient attention to understanding the varying criteria that constitute valid knowledge among actors across epistemologies and institutional scales that may enable use of various forms of knowledge. For example, it has been suggested that knowledge must be 'credible, salient and legitimate' in order to support decision making and that knowledge processes must strive for 'co-production' by the actors involved. However, there has been little work to understand how relations of power within and across scales challenge 'co-production' processes and measurements of credibility, salience, and legitimacy for adaptation in theory and in practice. In this paper, we outline an approach for understanding how multiple knowledges are produced, articulated, and represented, with particular attention to power relations in the context of knowledge production for climate adaptation across scales in Tanzania. We suggest a combined post-Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and critical Political Ecology perspective to make visible the relations of power involved at the interfaces of 'scientific' and 'indigenous' knowledges and how this influences the 'integration' and use of such knowledge within adaptation decision-making and attempts at co-production.